Gadhafi’s Mercenarie​s And The Plight of African Refugees

Above: Suspected mercenaries are held by anti-government protesters in the eastern Libya.

Tadias Magazine
Editorial

Updated: Monday, February 28, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Since protests erupted two weeks ago in Libya, demanding an end to Muammar el-Gadhafi’s 42-year rule, the government has employed unimaginable lethal force, including fighter jets, to quell the revolt. The Libyan people have shown remarkable fortitude by continuing to stand up against the violent crackdown.

As members of the Libyan army are switching sides in support of the growing opposition movement, Gadhafi who is known to have relied on foreign fighters and bodyguards to prop up his power has once again turned to mercenaries in order to save his crumbling regime.

The hired guns are largely from other African nations, and their presence has created a backlash and unsafe conditions for refugees and residents of African descent – most of whom migrated to Libya in search of safe haven from economic and political disenfranchisement in their own countries. In an interview aired on Deutsche Welle radio last week, Ethiopian residents in Tripoli appealed for help saying that they have now become targets of mob attacks in the capital and various other towns in Libya. According to the interviewees, those who work as domestic helpers (mostly women) may be safe under the protection of their employers, but the rest are exposed to vigilante justice. And as of today, no one has come to their rescue. (Update: Via AllAfrica.com on March 3, 2011 – Ethiopia Says Will Evacuate Citizens Stranded in Libya).

New York Times cites IOM statistics that document more than 1.5 million migrant workers in Libya, most of whom worked in construction businesses and arrived from Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Thailand. Although better off workers from China and Bosnia are managing to leave Libyan ports, migrant workers from poorer nations have found themselves stranded and with fewer options. The case is more alarming for African migrant workers and refugees, some of whom say are unable to leave their houses for fear of retaliation in the streets.

According to the advocacy group CSW, “refugees report that in detention centres, the government is attempting to recruit African prisoners as mercenaries, and prison guards who object are allegedly being killed. Homes where large numbers of refugees have gathered are being attacked, and they are subject to threatening phone calls and physical assault with knives and stones as angry Libyans mistake them for mercenaries.”

On Saturday night, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to launch an international war crimes investigation into “widespread and systemic attacks” carried out by Gadhafi’s forces, and imposed an international travel ban on high-ranking Libyan officials who are believed to have played a role in the violence against civilians.

President Obama has stated that Gadhafi had “lost the legitimacy to rule” and asked him step down immediately. The U.S. also froze Libyan government assets worth billions of dollars, and may do the same with the assets of officials who participated in the violent crackdown.

We also hope international organizations adequately address the safety of foreign migrant workers in Libyan towns and cities, and provide safe passage out of the country if necessary.

The latest from Libya
Rebels in Libya Win Battle but Fail to Loosen Qaddafi’s Grip (NYT)

Video: UN steps up pressure on Gaddafi (euronews)

Video: Uprising spreads further across Libya (euronews)

Related:
Libyan mercenaries: captured Africans deny charges (AP)
In Libyan Port, Stranded Migrants Watch Hope Depart (NYT)


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