Friday, September 2, 2011

Plight of sub-Saharan Africans in Libya

Migrant workers camp at a fishing port near Tripoli Migrant workers are often viewed with suspicion by both sides in the conflict
"Justice" does not know where the young men came from nor whose side they were on.
All he knows is that they were aggressive and demanding money. When he tried to tell them he had nothing to give them, not a penny, they stabbed him in the stomach and then they sped away.
Justice, a Nigerian in his early 50s, is lucky to be alive. He was treated in a Tripoli clinic and now has a huge scar across his stomach.
Like thousands of sub-Saharan Africans, he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when Libya's civil conflict erupted earlier this year.
"Justice" Justice shows the scar he received after being stabbed in the stomach
Many Africans were accused by pro-Gaddafi loyalists and by the opposition rebels of being paid mercenaries, and were persecuted for that.
'Women raped' While, there is evidence that many so-called foreigners did take up arms in this conflict, the vast majority were unjustly accused and now find themselves trapped in a foreign land without money and with few friends.
The group of as many as 2,000 Africans I came across were living in a dilapidated fishing port on the outskirts of Tripoli.
Sleeping in disused warehouses or under the meagre shade given by abandoned fishing boats, Ghanaians, Malians, Nigerians and many others told of their desperation.

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We are poor, with no food and it's so dangerous that the men here don't sleep at night”
Ghanaian man
"We need help," said a 24-year-old Ghanaian man.
He denied accusations that some people at the camp had been fighters but readily admitted that many were immigrants who had come to Libya in recent years looking for work.
"We are poor, with no food and it's so dangerous that the men here don't sleep at night," said the man.
Deserted These people certainly live in squalor. There are allegations that the Libyan men who arrive at night at the camp in their cars and are often carrying guns have raped many women.
The Africans do not know if their visitors are pro- or anti-Gaddafi and, to an extent, they do not really care.
The BBC notified the the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other agencies about the camp and while they promised to help with some food and medicines, the aid workers said the migrants were ultimately the responsibility of their own governments.
The reality is that, while some governments, including China, India and Pakistan repatriated their migrant workers within days of fighting breaking out in Libya, many thousands of African workers were not so fortunate.
The people I saw, many of them with young children, have been left to their own devices in a violent, broken country.
They are often viewed with equal suspicion by both sides simply because of where they come from.
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