last edits August 14
The Scope of the Crisis
The Libyan Civil War has unleashed an epic outpouring of foreigners who had been living and working in Libya, especially from impoverished African nations. A May report by the International Center for Research and Study on Terrorism and Aide to Victims of Terrorism (CIRET-AVT) and the French Center for Research on Intelligence (CF2R) addresses this in some detail. The report (which I've written on here) estimates as many as four million (and as few as three million) have fled "the fighting."
Considering that desert-dominated Libya is a nation with a native population of only about six million, this is bound to have en effect on Libya, let along the refugees' home nations. There are also an unknown number of foreigners who haven't left - those still employed and safe, those lynched in "free Libya" and now dead - a number that's almost surely in the thousands - and those existing unsafe but in hiding in Benghazi and elsewhere, we're looking at possibly five million or more. That's a lot of damn people who the rebels felt didn't belong there.
Their employment was enabled by government-run oil funds, foreign investments, and internal stability, all of which have were stripped between the February uprising and the "world community's" follow-up blows. For the effects in Libya and the region I'll cite the CIRET-AVT/CF2R report [English-language PDF], written by their top people after a month-long visit to both halves of Libya.
The flight of foreign communities
Before the revolution, Libya, although totalitarian in nature, offered employment and income to its population and many foreigners, including Africans and Asiatics. Libya has for some time absorbed the unemployed of neighbouring states. Many immigrants worked in the petroleum and construction industries. About 3 to 4 million foreigners left the country due to the pressure of the events.
- 1.5 to 2 million Egyptians,
- 1 million Sahel, West and Central Africans,
- 600,000 Sudanese,
- More than 200,000 Moroccans,
- More than 100,000 thousand Tunisians,
- 60,000 Palestinians,
- 10,000 Algerians,
- As well as many Turks, Philipinos, Sri Lankans and other Asiatics.
The civil war therefore caused the return home of many economic emigrants, even though their countries have high unemployment rates. This exodus risks aggravating significantly the situation in these countries; they lose a source of revenue - that income sent home by the emigrants - and see return home those who will swell the ranks of the unemployed and disaffected. This will increase the number of those being smuggled to Europe, since the Gulf countries are not interested in immigrants from some of these countries, even though they are ‘brothers’ and ‘revolutionaries’, they prefer workers from Asia.
Another consequence of the departure of these foreign workers, who contributed to economic functions in the country, is that this has put it into a state of 'hibernation.' Construction sites, hotels, restaurants, businesses and service stations functioning, due to lack of staff. [p21]
"... lets remember NATO decided to intervene in Libya to protect civilians," MSF field coordinator for the Shousha camp in Tunisia, Sasha Matthews, told IPS. And it was the United Nations Security Council who decided to impose an air embargo, to prevent "mercenaries and weapons" being flown in, but it's prevented everyone else from flying out. Desert crossing are a dead end - no one is allowed to fly or sail out of Tunisia or Egypt, it seems. A Medecines Sans Frontiers video has all those who want to leave returning to Libya first and sailing from there. One Somali man's pregnant wife took off without telling him, he says, trying for Italy but dying in one of the many ships that sank in the sea.
A Dangerous Crossing
After the flood of refugees really started, a few weeks after the protests started, the deaths started racking up. Apparently 335 disappeared in a late March sinking. On April six, hundreds were missing after another capsize. Final death toll: about 250. [source] Again in early May, another ship named Abdi went under, killing hundreds. [link] And those are just a few.
It seems worth asking if ships usually sink this often, but again, we're talking about 3-4 million people moving out, nearly all by sea. Inter-Press Service News Agency reported on August 6 that the death toll had reached at least 1,800.
Just last month a Spanish NATO vessel rescued over 100 African refugees who had escaped Libya. Among the group were 17 women - four of them pregnant - and eight children. They were denied entry and shelter by Italy and Malta.Others have died from on-board violence, and in one strange case in May, several were reportedly tossed overboard by superstitious passengers hoping to end a storm. The ship went down anyway. All told, that is less than 2,000 out of 3-4 million, not necessarily that horrific, all things considered. It's a death rate of at most one per thousand and perhaps less than half that.
Since the start of Libya’s Arab Spring and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) air campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, more than 1,800 men, women and children have reportedly drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in heavily overcrowded, unseaworthy boats.
The Italian coastguard recovered 25 bodies of sub-Saharan African refugees Monday, who choked to death in the engine room of a boat crammed with nearly 300 people. The boat was trying to reach Italy’s southern holiday resort island of Lampedusa.
But of course, these are people we're talking about, precious, unique, irreplaceable human beings. Highly valuable, in the right hands.
Whole Vessels Disappear?
CNN mentioned it on May 10:
Hundreds of people are missing after the ship Abdi was on went down last Friday, while 250 people died in a shipwreck at the beginning of April, and two boats with 480 people between them have simply vanished, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said.More can be found with the people who prodded the high commission to check and confirm.
An Appeal to the United Nations: There May be Survivors Among the 335 sub-Saharan Refugees Who Went Missing on March 22nd, 2011.Smugglers Put in Charge of humanitarian evacuation?
Milan (Italy), August 4, 2011. On the night of Monday, March 22nd, 335 sub-Saharan refugees, including many women and children, mostly Ethiopians and Eritreans, set sail from Tripoli (Libya) hoping to reach the Italian coast and flee from persecution. The boat, driven by a smuggler, went missing just a few hours later. A relative of two of the passengers on the boat raised the alarm by contacting EveryOne Group and other humanitarian organizations, who immediately alerted the authorities to ask for patrols to be sent into international waters, and requested the intervention of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Five bodies of sub-Saharan refugees - two boys, two women and a man - were found in the sea with gunshot wounds according to Libyan authorities and local NGOs.
They were part of the group of 335 refugees, predominantly Eritrean and Ethiopian, who left Tajura (Libya) on 22nd March and have not been heard from since. It is not clear who may have murdered the refugees and the authorities have not provided photos of the bodies. EveryOne Group, which was in constant contact with the families of some of the missing refugees (both in Eritrea and Europe) in the weeks following the tragedy collected together some reports according to which there were survivors of the attack, and these people had attempted to contact relatives abroad. The survivors are said to be in Libya, in a prison or a detention camp. EveryOne Group released news of these reports and has repeatedly contacted the Libyan authorities and the United Nations, asking for a search for these survivors to be made.
Under what kind of authority was that approved? Well, it seems, the local authorities where allied lynch mobs had first pushed these human cattle to want to leave. I again refer to the CIRET-AVT/CF2R report, page 14, "Irredentism of Eastern Libya"
Finally, a little known fact, Benghazi has become, over the course of the last years, the epicentre of African migration to Europe. This human traffic was transformed into a vast industry, turning over billions of dollars. A parallel mafia type world developed in the town where the trafficking was deeply rooted and employed thousands of people in all areas, not without corrupting the police and officials.That benefitted the rebel cause greatly - the dead and captured black men became temporary "proof" of the Afro-mercs who signaled Gaddafi's eminent demise. In return, a cut of the exit fees, and perhaps on the side, a few boatloads delivered onto some slave market for tens of millions a pop. A cut back to the rebels to help them buy guns? Who knows...
It is only a year ago that the Libyan government with the assistance of Italy was able
to control this cancer.
With the disappearance of its ‘business’ and the arrest of a number of its leaders, the local mafia was ready to finance and to support the Libyan rebellion. Numerous gangs and members of the underworld emerged from the shadows and are known to have carried out punitive assaults against the African immigrants in Benghazi and its suburbs. Since the start of the insurgency hundreds of immigrant travellers, Sudanese, Somalians, Ethiopians, and Eritreans were robbed and murdered by the rebel militias. This fact is carefully concealed by the international media.
One Troubling Actor
Ali Abdelaziz al-Essawi is currently Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board of the rebel NTC and was previously the TNC's minister of Foreign Affairs, and one of the highest-ranking member of the council (Wikipedia). He played at least some part in spreading and giving credibility to the blood libel that Gaddafi was hiring mercenaries from black Africa, and tasking them with beastly acts of savagery. The UK Guardian's strangely credulous article from February mentioned this:
Essawi told al-Jazeera: "People say they are black Africans and they don't speak Arabic. They are doing terrible things, going to houses and killing women and children."Maxmillian Forte also cited that quote in an excellent article from April, as well as this decade-old classic from the regime insider, from the time of horrific nationwide race riots in 2000 that killed hundreds, including black-skinned diplomats:
the then Minister of Economy, Trade, and Investment -- one Ali Abd-al-Aziz al-Isawi -- stated about the African presence: "it is a burden"; and then he added this: "They are a burden on health care, they spread disease, crime. They are illegal."For this older quote, Forte cited this UN Watch demand for Gaddafi's Libya to end its systemic racism against Blacks. Violent protests and lynchings started one year later to the day, the racists took over half the country, and won instant support from UN Watch (see here, here, and here, for starters - the last specifically endorsing al-Essawi on the "hired guns" paid to "massacre," just ignoring the racial element of it). And the Security Council of the UN they try to keep in line did everything it could to allow and encourage the army of the lynch mob in its bid for full takeover, with no protest from UN Watch. The real problem they have was never with racism itself, it seems. This is what China's calling "Human Rights Imperialism," and the gripe was with Gaddafi. In both cases, they used the racism of those like Essawi - within the regime or without - to injure the Jamahiriya.
At any rate, we see a consistent pattern with al-Essawi: whenever riots boil over, cause or effect, he's there to fertilize the public mind with paranoia. This spurs greater violence and bloodshed, chasing off the unwanted blacks, troubling and burdening the regime, and creating an immense rush of business for those who profit from the misery of others' displacement. Just what Mr. al-Essawi or his business associates might gain from the latter is something we cannot know.