Almost 300 miles separates Libya from Sicily. This 300-mile stretch is known as the refugee graveyard. Over the course of the last six years almost 16,000 people have died or have gone missing off the Libyan coast. But for many, a fate worse than drowning at sea is being locked up in one of the country’s numerous detention centres. Since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the Libyan militias now reign supreme in a merciless war for the capital and for oil.
Libya is one of the worst countries in the world to be a refugee or asylum seeker. There is a very high chance that you will be abused, tortured and raped. This abuse most often occurs inside the country’s detention centres. There are dozens of official and clandestine centres all throughout Libya. We managed to get inside one of the most notorious centres in Zawiya. There, we witnessed firsthand the appalling conditions.
But there are those who try to help. Humanitarian organisations specialising in rescue aid have taken to the sea or the skies to patrol the area. Accused of aiding illegal immigration in Europe, these NGOs are the target of numerous administrative and judicial claims that attempt to derail their mission. We followed them for several weeks on board the Mediterranean emergency rescue ship ‘The Ocean Viking’ and heard the stories of those able to escape the camps
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