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Amnesty International calls on Tunisia and Egypt to open borders to people fleeing violence in Libya

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Amnesty International has called on Tunisia and Egypt to keep their borders open and provide safe haven to any persons fleeing violence and persecution in Libya.

In a new briefing published Monday entitled “‘Libya is full of cruelty’: Stories of abduction, sexual violence and abuse from migrants and refugees”, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Director, Philip Luther, wrote that “the world cannot continue to ignore its obligation to grant sanctuary to anyone fleeing such dreadful abuse. Neighbouring countries, including Tunisia and Egypt, must keep their borders open to ensure anyone fleeing violence and persecution in Libya is granted safe refuge.”

“Egypt and Tunisia have also tightened border restrictions fearing a spillover of the conflict in Libya, leaving migrants and refugees whose passports have often been stolen or confiscated by smugglers, criminal gangs or their Libyan employers with no other feasible route out of the country except to embark on a perilous sea journey to Europe” he added.

The report exposes the horror and plight of refugees and migrants in Libya where many risk their lives in treacherous sea crossings in a desperate attempt to reach sanctuary in Europe.

Amnesty International called on wealthy countries to increase the number of resettlement places for vulnerable refugees and for the international community to take effective steps to urgently address human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law being committed by all sides in Libya.

Luther welcomed EU leaders’ commitment to deploy more resources for search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean, but warned that “introducing measures to tackle smugglers without providing safe alternative routes out for the people desperate to flee conflict in Libya, will not resolve the plight of migrants and refugees.”

“If implemented, the measures could lead to thousands of migrants and refugees being trapped in a conflict zone,” he stressed.

The European Council last month announced plans to intensify efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by smugglers.

Amnesty International called on the European Union to take action and put an end to civilian suffering in Libya and provide alternative and safe solutions for those wishing to escape the conflict there.

Illegal African immigrants often use Libya as their route to escape poverty and cross to Europe, especially Italy.

According to the United Nations, between March and August of last year more than 30,000 illegal migrants entered Libya through multiple avenues.

Figures published by the International Organisation for Migration reveal that more than 3,000 people died last year in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe.

Moreover, Save the Children says more than 5,000 illegal immigrants, including 450 children, reached Italy in April 2015.

Resource: Middle East Monitor, May 12, 2015

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