An international rights group has criticized European authorities for sending refugees trying to reach the continent back to Libya.
Executive Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Kenneth Roth on Thursday lashed out at a Brussels-backed deal that helps Libya block refugees from trying to reach Europe.
“The way migrants are treated in Libya is horrendous, where we hear over and over stories of forced labor, forced sexual abuse, torture,” he said.
Shocking footage late last year showed black Africans being sold in a Libyan market.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 3,100 migrants died or disappeared trying to cross to Europe last year.
Roth described the EU-Libya deal as “the evil that governments can do”.
The IOM “has said that more migrants are dying inside Libya than die once they get in a boat to cross the Mediterranean. So that gives you a sense of how bad things are,” Roth said.
The HRW chief criticized the forceful return of the asylum-seekers who had succeeded in reaching the EU and did not want to be returned.
“You can help them return home if that’s what they want, but nobody should be forcibly returned to Libya,” he said.
EU officials revealed in October that Brussels had been training Libyan coastguards to stop the flow of asylum-seekers.
Roth said European officials were “trying to do indirectly what they can’t do directly by building up and training the Libyan coastguard so that the Libyans on their own can simply return people back to the traffickers.”