Honorable Mention TOKYO-2017 Editorial / General News

Stuck in Libya

  • Photographer
    Lorenzo Tugnoli

Libya, the biggest jumping-off point for migrants trying to reach Europe, is now home to a thriving trade in humans. Migrants escaping from poverty and war end up being held as slaves, tortured or forced into prostitution by traffickers and smugglers. The Italian government in its efforts to stop migrants for reaching its shores is working along the Libyan Coast Guards and the various militias that are running the detention center for migrants. But many of these groups are involved in the trafficking themselves or work along the smugglers. I visited two main government-run detention centers in Tripoli, as well as a third in the coastal city of Zawiyah that is controlled by a militia allegedly involved in human trafficking, according to U.N. investigators. The center is used to sell migrants to other smugglers; guards or militia members call the migrants’ families to extort cash. If they pay, the migrant is released and put back on a boat to Europe. All detention centers offer dire living condition; all are woefully underfunded, in part because of militia and government rivalries. Funding has been frozen and bills to feed migrants haven’t been paid in months. Migrants sleep and eat on the dirty floors. Lunch is a six-inch loaf of bread. Dinner is a plate of macaroni.