The Secretive Prisons That Keep Migrants Out of Europe
December 4, 2021 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Tired of migrants arriving from Africa, the E.U. has created a shadow immigration system that captures them before they reach its shores, and sends them to brutal Libyan detention centers run by militias. [slNYorker]

In the past six years, the European Union, weary of the financial and political costs of receiving migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, has created a shadow immigration system that stops them before they reach Europe. It has equipped and trained the Libyan Coast Guard, a quasi-military organization linked to militias in the country, to patrol the Mediterranean, sabotaging humanitarian rescue operations and capturing migrants. The migrants are then detained indefinitely in a network of profit-making prisons run by the militias. In September of this year, around six thousand migrants were being held, many of them in Al Mabani. International aid agencies have documented an array of abuses: detainees tortured with electric shocks, children raped by guards, families extorted for ransom, men and women sold into forced labor. “The E.U. did something they carefully considered and planned for many years,” Salah Marghani, Libya’s Minister of Justice from 2012 to 2014, told me. “Create a hellhole in Libya, with the idea of deterring people from heading to Europe.”
posted by Ahmad Khani (16 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
It’s only a matter of time before “coast guards” are replaced by automated gun platforms that do the dirty work with no witnesses (except for Stefan in Accounting who notices excessive nighttime ammunition usage on platforms 3 through 5. He gets a choice reassignment to somewhere with no significant NGO or journalist activity, without ever asking why).
posted by aramaic at 7:29 PM on December 4, 2021 [7 favorites]

It's fascinating that the author is the subject of another, less praiseworthy recent post here on The Blue. He gave a presentation about this story at Pop-Up Magazine a few weeks ago, and his reporting bravery (he says he was captured and held by Libyan military forces for several days) sounds uncommon.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:04 PM on December 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

I'm appalled, though not surprised, by the sheer moral blindness of thinking you can evade responsibility by having someone else run your concentration camps.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 7:50 AM on December 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

I think that, honestly, there's going to be a lot more of that, because liberal democracies really want to preserve their image and self-conception as bastions of human rights, but they also don't want to have to deal with the increasingly desperate decisions that people in the global south are going to have to make because of climate change. By offshoring our atrocities, we can evade responsibility for the catastrophes we've caused, while pretending to be morally superior to the people whose lives we're destroying. None of this is new at all, but it's only going to get worse in the coming years.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:56 AM on December 5, 2021 [15 favorites]

Surely this.

European migrant policy is a shameful disaster and has been for years. Fuck borders and passports.
posted by chavenet at 9:00 AM on December 5, 2021

I think we need to drop the term “liberal democracy” as from all the evidence, the name doesn’t apply anywhere.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:46 AM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

What nations are leading in showing a better way on migration?
posted by Wood at 10:09 AM on December 5, 2021

This is horrifying. I feel like there are more and more nations that could benefit demographically from increased immigration. Whoever can give up some of their cherished racial/cultural purity and accept more migrants is going to have a huge advantage.

I live in St. Martin, which had extreme immigration in the late 20th and early 21st century, causing a tenfold population increase in 50 years or so and turning the local population into a minority from one census to the next. In the early 20th century, people were leaving the island to find work elsewhere. This kind of churn has been common in the Caribbean. There are some tensions around it, but considering it is sometimes happening at orders of magnitude more than in the big western democracies, I think maybe it is a pretty good example. Plus, it creates really rich, culturally diverse communities.
posted by snofoam at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

The African continent, like much of the global south, will become largely uninhabitable over the twenty-first century as a result of global heating. Either the north will elect to accommodate the relocation of billions of people, or to kill them.
posted by moorooka at 12:00 PM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Australia (a country built by migrants) has long had a policy that has, as its core, the same shameful thought process - stop people reaching our borders and you don't have to take responsibility for them.

Offshore processing aims to stop people trying to come to Australia for protection by boat. Instead of reaching safety, they end up detained in remote places in terrible conditions.
posted by dg at 1:42 PM on December 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Wood: "What nations are leading in showing a better way on migration?"

Pope Francis is at least talking the talk

posted by chavenet at 3:19 PM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

It's unclear what alternative is politically feasible. Europe's democracies are seeing ever-increasing anti-immigrant sentiment, as in the U.S., and governments that more humanely allow larger numbers of immigrants are less likely to continue in power. I would love to hear from European MeFites about the latest public opinion, as these horrors increasingly are publicized?
posted by PhineasGage at 5:15 PM on December 5, 2021

- Gaddafi used to be the paid gatekeeper to Europe. After Gaddafi, things took a turn for the worse, they went from dismal to hell on Earth - that includes the emergence of a slave-trade.
- A similar situation is developing in Greece where wannabe Orban-by-the-Med, Mitsotakis, has implemented a brutal pushback regime and the practical imprisonment of asylum seekers, responding to Erdogan's Gaddafi-like control of the flow of refugees as political pressure valves against the EU. This is certainly tolerated, possibly encouraged, by the EU.
posted by talos at 3:26 AM on December 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would love to hear from European MeFites about the latest public opinion, as these horrors increasingly are publicized?

Here in Italy there's great unease in the institutional media at facing the country's responsibilities and complicity in buttressing Fortress EU, not to mention in political discourse. Urbina's reporting got noticed by the usual few outlets who attempt to at least chronicle what the borders are being turned into. Overall, though, the horrors now happening not only off the coast of Lampedusa, but also in the English Channel, in the Aegean, as well as on the new Eastern gateway Belarus/Poland, might strike some as significant because at least it's not only Italy having to actively engage, but more than anything they end up being distractions from the actual issue of what solutions are needed to address the upcoming realities (and live down past responsibilities).

Ever since the highly spectacularised takedown of the creative integration intiative that Mimmo Lucano attempted in Riace (previously), it feels like everyone's terrified of raising Salvini's chances for a political comeback, and so has just internalised the anti-immigration stance as inevitable. The failure of a recent, almost farcically mismanaged regularisation attempt, aimed at surfacing the more than half a million undocumented agriculture and caregiver workers that Italy depends on, pushed through parliament at the start of the Covid pandemic but which has brought results for less than 10% of its intended target, is just the latest evidence of deep structural resistance to facing the future that we well know is coming eye to eye... That there's only the pope speaking to the facts, though it at least tolls a bell, bodes badly for general pragmatic discourse or intitiative in this country.
posted by progosk at 4:01 AM on December 6, 2021 [4 favorites]

So as not to bring just gloom&doom, there are Italian initiatives underway that focus on the root issues, such as this recent appeal, calling out passport hypocrisy. But substantial groundswells take time, and there's nowhere near critical mass for manifest future visions here yet.
posted by progosk at 5:17 AM on December 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

"Pope Francis is at least talking the talk."

Of course, the Vatican isnt taking in refugees either, I suspect.
posted by Billiken at 8:52 AM on December 6, 2021

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