Libya: Mass expulsion of irregular migrants would be a violation of human rights

Libya’s decision this week to expel all irregular migrants with immediate effect could have grave consequences, Amnesty International said today. Collective expulsions are inherently arbitrary and those seeking refuge from persecution risk being sent back to face torture and other serious human rights violations in such a sweeping measure.

Libya is obliged under international human rights law not to send anyone to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations. Collective expulsions are also prohibited under international human rights law.

“We call on the Libyan authorities not to implement what appears to be a rushed decision as it would violate the rights of potentially hundreds of thousands of people, including women and children,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Programme Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Libya has regularly deported refugees and asylum-seekers in recent years and routinely expels migrants in a collective manner, concerns highlighted by the UN Human Rights Committee in October 2007.

“The Libyan authorities must ensure that no deportation is carried out in an arbitrary manner and no person in need of international protection is expelled,” said Philip Luther.

In recent years, the government has arrested and forcibly returned tens of thousands of foreigners who are suspected of having entered the country in an irregular manner with no attention paid to their potential protection needs. Many are migrant workers, but the authorities appear to make little attempt to differentiate between migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. In recent years Eritreans, some of whom had fled Eritrea for fear of persecution on account of their political beliefs, have been of particular concern.

Amnesty International is also concerned about the treatment of those who risk being rounded up under the new decision. There have been persistent allegations that migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees are exposed to torture or other ill-treatment on arrest and particularly in detention centres.

“We urge Libya to ensure that all migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees detained in the country are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and treated humanely,” said Philip Luther. “They should be provided with adequate medical treatment and allowed to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.”