A new Amnesty International briefing published this week highlights that Christian migrants and refugees in Libya are at particular risk of abuse from armed groups aiming to impose their own interpretation of Islamic law.
Refugees and migrants across Libya face rape, torture and abductions for ransom by traffickers and smugglers, as well as systematic exploitation by their employers, religious persecution and other abuses by armed groups and criminal gangs.
People from Nigeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt have been abducted, tortured, unlawfully killed and harassed because of their religion. Most recently a total of at least 49 Christians, mostly from Egypt and Ethiopia were beheaded and shot in three mass summary killings claimed by the group calling itself the Islamic State (IS).
Migrants and refugees also face widespread abductions, torture, theft and physical assaults by criminal gangs and human smugglers, often at Libya’s southern borders and along the smuggling routes to the Libyan coast.
Charles, a 30-year-old man from Nigeria, told Amnesty International he decided to flee to Europe by boat last month after he was abducted and physically assaulted a number of times by members of a criminal gang in the coastal city of Zuwara. He had gone there to escape indiscriminate shelling and fighting in Tripoli.
“They would come steal our money and flog us. I can’t complain to the police about the Christian issue because they don’t like us… In October 2014 four men kidnapped me… because they saw I was carrying a bible,” he said.
They took away his money and phone, and held him for two days while they tortured and beat him until he finally managed to escape one night through the window.