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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

In Libya, mistreatment of black migrants includes gays

By Paul Canning

As the BBC finally covers in depths, after weeks of reports, the abuse of African migrant workers by the forces fighting the Libyan dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi, we can report that those impacted have included gay African workers.

A group of gay Africans has now left the country after several fearful weeks in Tripoli but are not yet safe. We cannot reveal either their route or destination.

One wrote:
"I have been work in Tripoli, Libya for the last five years, I belong to a group of young gay African men. Life has not be smooth but we keep to ourselves." 
"There has been widescale abuse and heavy beatings for gays in the middle of the war crisis." 
"Gays are hated here in Libya and that is not likely to stop because of the new government. Here is the example: Just recently, my Ugandan gay friend was badly beaten and left for death here in Tripoli." 
"H's case is not unique, being gay in Africa is treated like a crime, and here in Libya is no different and that will not change with the new government. H's case will not make the news because we are afraid to report it for fear of not only because we are gay but we are also black Africans, a double crime here. H would have died if a few of our friends did not come to his rescue and if the liberators found out that his friends were gay it would have been terrible."
The International Detention Coalition says that reports of the harassment, mass arrest and detention of African migrants across Libya follow their previously expressed and ongoing concerns for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers detained during times of conflict.

Human Rights Watch reports that black Libyans and African migrants are being held on suspicion of having fought as mercenaries for Gaddafi, by the de facto authorities, the National Transitional Council (NTC), solely on account of their skin colour. The migrants are being held in ad hoc places of detention across Tripoli, and it remains unclear how or if the NTC plans to review each case to determine whether there is evidence of criminal activity or not.

The BBC report says:
"When rebel fighters moved into Tripoli last month, an immediate hunt began for former regime loyalists and African mercenaries accused of working for Col Gaddafi. Evidence has emerged in a series of interviews that suggests that some engaged in a violent campaign of abuse and intimidation against the black immigrant community in Tripoli."
The mass arrests have created a climate of fear, with many migrants too scared to leave their houses, and others sheltering in hideouts. Whilst there is evidence that Gaddafi did engage mercenary fighters from sub-Saharan Africa, it is also known that prior to the uprising, between one and two million African migrant workers were living in Libya.

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