Suffocating jails, torture and forced labour: rescued migrants recount the hell of Libya

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Late in June, after days of diplomatic wrangling, 234 migrants rescued off the Libyan coast while attempting to reach Europe in flimsy dinghies were finally allowed to disembark in Malta after several countries agreed to receive quotas from the group. Earlier this month, 51 of them arrived in France. Mediapart travelled to Toulouse, where some were given provisional accommodation, to listen to the harrowing stories of their experiences in Libya, where black Africans are subject to endemic racism and many become the prey and prisoner of vicious local militias. “If an Arab catches you, he sells you,” said one of the survivors. “When you are black, you are a commodity, you’re bought and sold on.” Mathilde Mathieu reports. 

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It was on June 21st when the MV Lifeline, a Dutch-registered migrant rescue ship patrolling the Mediterranean for German NGO Mission Lifeline, rescued 234 people it discovered floating in rubber dinghies near the coast of Libya. Shortly afterwards, panic set in among the group as they saw a Libyan coastguard vessel approach the ship.