The sexual violence in Libyan detention camps is only the tip of the iceberg. The camps' living conditions are dismal. Kopp described how they are overcrowded, people are starving and almost every woman is a victim of sexual attacks. "There have also been shootings during protests. The EU must do everything it can to put an end to this," Kopp said. "What this means is that the EU is supporting these human rights violations because it is only focussed on one issue: as few people as possible should come to Europe via the Mediterranean."

'European refugee policy's low point'

As suffering for refugees taking this dangerous route to Europe continues to increase, no clear solution to the problem is in sight. Pro Asyl is demanding an EU rescue plan to free people from these conditions. "A continent that takes asylum law seriously must open up new avenues. The fact that they don't exist means people travel to the hell that is Libya in the first place," Kopp said. "This is the low point of European refugee policy. It couldn't be worse."

According to the UNHCR, the migrant death rate almost tripled in 2018 compared to the previous year. In the past five years, around 17,000 people have drowned. Chynoweth believes there is a lack of political will to fix the situation: "The EU supports the Libyan coast guard, which does not attach any importance to migrants' safety. It also refuses to rescue drowning refugees. Another EU goal is to destroy the wooden boats so that they cannot be reused. But that only leads to smugglers using cheap rubber boats that are unsafe. All this contributes to more and more people dying. This could all be avoided."

"These militiamen do not see refugees as human beings, but as dollar signs – goods to be exploited," Chynoweth said.

Nermin Ismail

© Deutsche Welle 2019

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