Rescued migrants that were refusing to disembark the Panama-flagged cargo ship Nivin for ten days in the port of Misrata, Libya, have been forcefully removed from the vessel by Libyan security forces.
Responding to instructions from Italian maritime authorities, the car carrier rescued 95 people from a sinking rubber boat in international waters off the Libyan coast on November 7 and subsequently docked at the port of Misrata on November 10.
Refugees and migrants on board included Ethiopian, Eritrean, South Sudanese, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Somali nationals, according to the U.N.
Around 14 people reportedly disembarked the vessel willingly, while others refused to leave. According to international NGO Human Rights Watch, 79 migrants and asylum seekers were removed from the vessel on November 20.
“A joint force raided the cargo ship and used rubber bullets and tear gas to force (them off the ship),” Reuters reported citing the commander of the central region coastguards, Tawfiq Esskair.
“We regret the reports that some of the people onboard were injured during the forced disembarkation and transferred to the public hospital,” the U.N. said.
U.N. added that it had tried to reach a peaceful solution to the impasse in Misrata port, however, its mediation efforts failed.
“The humanitarian community calls for alternatives to detention to be implemented in Libya and for the transfer of individuals from disembarkation points to appropriate reception facilities for assistance, screening and solutions. We further call for continued humanitarian access to all individuals disembarked and stand ready to contribute to ensuring appropriate support and solutions for the entire group are found, depending of the circumstances and needs of each individuals,” the U.N. said.
As disclosed by Human Rights Watch, which conducted research in detention centers in areas controlled by the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Libya in the summer of 2018, asylum seekers and migrants claim that they have been mistreated and abused by local authorities.
These include alleged abuse by guards, members of armed groups, and smugglers that included beatings, inhumane detention conditions, forced labor, extortion, and sexual assault.
“This is the worst possible conclusion to the desperate plea of the people on board the Nivin to avoid inhuman detention in Libya,” said Judith Sunderland, acting deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“The situation is the result of efforts by Italy and the European Union to obstruct rescue operations by nongovernmental organizations and empower the Libyan Coast Guard even when Europe knows that Libya is not a safe place.”
The NGO urged that Libyan authorities should immediately allow United Nations and nongovernmental personnel to visit the people removed from the cargo ship, find alternatives to their detention, and investigate the possible use of unlawful force.