Eritreans protest in The Hague to draw attention to refugees in Libya

The Hague – Around 200 Eritreans gathered in the political capital of the Netherlands to ask for help for Eritrean refugees in Libya. As violence has broken out in Libya, the refugees have increasingly become trapped. The Eritreans protesting in the Netherlands report that Eritrean refugees have been, among other things, tortured, shot, raped and starved. Pictures of trapped groups of people, including of young children and women, are circulating on social media. The protesters ask for help from the UNHCR, the European Union and in particular the Netherlands to provide an emergency solution. Similar protests have been held, for example in London.

As the Eritrean refugees in Libya have fled human rights abuses in their own country, they cannot go back. With the European Union increasingly closing its borders, refugees have become trapped. The Eritrean protesters in the Netherlands report that many people, especially men who cannot pay or women and girls who are sexually abused, have been trapped in Libyan detention centres and human trafficking hideouts for as many as one or two years. Pictures of pregnant women and women giving birth in such conditions have circulated on social media. The recent fighting in Libya has destroyed some of the prisons in which people were held, allowing some refugees to escape the traffickers, which is how the people have been able to send pictures to their family and friends in Europe.

Lack of food and water is normal in the crowded places where the refugees and migrants are held. Often they themselves do not know where they are located. In the last weeks, tensions have risen in Libya and militia groups have turned against one another. The pictures held up by the protesters show people that have been shot or otherwise injured. After violence broke out, many refugees and migrants that were stuck in detention centres and trafficking warehouses were abandoned, some without food. Of particular concern to the protesters is the rape of women and girls. “For young girls, they are not interested in money. Only in using them,” says one of the protesters.

“Eritreans are dying in Libya!” The crowd in The Hague shouts. They are requesting help from the UNHCR, the international community and the Netherlands in particular. In a letter sent to Dutch minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, the Eritreans ask for humanitarian action to protect the Eritreans in Libya. Urgent help is needed for all refugees and migrants but particularly for Eritreans, they say, as the Eritrean president is doing nothing to assist his own people.