UK Rwanda Deal: We must listen to refugees
Mass graves are reported. There is clear evidence of crimes against humanity. Yet since 2017, more than 90,000 men, women and children have been forcibly returned to Libya, a country ruled by militias with no functioning government.
Today, the European Union monitors the central Mediterranean – the stretch of sea between North Africa and Italy – using drones, helicopters and planes. Information about boat sightings is passed to the Libyan Coast Guard, a group of people that sometimes includes militia members and even sanctioned smugglers.
Over the past five years, the EU has also spent tens of millions of euros on the Libyan coast guard, encouraging it to carry out interceptions on what is being called ‘the deadliest migration route in the world’ “. Most of the refugees and migrants caught trying to reach Europe are locked up in detention centers in Libya, which Pope Francis, among others, has compared to “concentration camps”. They are not part of a legal process. They have no right to challenge their incarceration.
I wrote my new book, “My Fourth Time We Drowned,” because I wanted to document the horrors we in the rich world are responsible for. Over the past decade in particular, our governments have overseen increased border security and the deliberate incarceration or silencing of people who attempt to seek safety. Seventy years after the global refugee system began, it is collapsing.
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Readers may think they already know what is happening at Europe’s borders, but I can assure you that the information I have gathered over the past five years has been hard earned: I myself have been the subject of a year-long criminal investigation by German prosecutors and I received death threats. and security warnings from government intelligence agencies. The book includes reporting from Rwanda – now infamous as the country that signed a £120m deal to bring asylum seekers from the UK – as well as Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Sudan, from all over Europe and from a rescue vessel off the coast of Libya.
Last month, an independent fact-finding mission appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council released its second report. In his first, he said violations against refugees and migrants in Libya could amount to crimes against humanity and were overseen by Libyan authorities.