Watching the Shadows

Podcast: against the global detention state

In Episode 45 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with alarm the rapid consolidation of a global detention state, extending across borders and rival power blocs. In the United States, Trump moves toward indefinite detention of undocumented migrants, with horrific rights abuses widespread in the fast-expanding camp system. In China, up to a million Uighurs have been detained in “re-education camps,” and are facing such abuses as forced sterilization. As India hypocritically protests China’s treatment of the Uighurs, it is also preparing mass detention of its own Muslim population. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is similarly preparing mass detention of the Crimean Tatars. In Syria, the Bashar Assad regime has detained hundreds of thousands, and is carrying out a mass extermination of prisoners, almost certainly amounting to genocide. In Libya, countless thousands of desperate migrants have been detained, often by completely unaccountable militias, and an actual slave trade in captured Black African migrants has emerged. Yet Trump exploits the mass internment of the Uighurs to score propaganda points against imperial rival China—and some “leftists” (sic) in the US are so confused as to actually defend China’s detention state. International solidarity is urgently needed at this desperate moment to repudiate such divide-and-rule stratagems. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of Homeland Security’s Otay Mesa Detention Center from BBC World Service via Flickr)

North Africa
Libya migrants

UN tells migrants to leave Libya ‘transit center’

The UN says it is unable to help most residents of an overcrowded refugee center in the Libyan capital it once touted as a safe haven. To encourage people to go, it is offering money and aid—and even telling them they won’t be able to register as refugees to leave the war-torn country if they remain. Originally intended as a temporary residence for a small fraction of refugees—just those already vetted by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and scheduled for evacuation or permanent residency in other countries—the Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) now has some 1,150 residents, well over its stated capacity. Most arrived over the last eight months of clashes in Tripoli, including 900 who UNHCR says entered “informally”; some even bribed their way in to escape more oppressive conditions at other facilities run by the Libyan government. But conditions are now rapidly deteriorating at the GDF as well. (Photo of Triq al-Sikka migrant detention center via TNH)

North Africa
Libya migrant center

Controversy at UN migrant facility in Libya

The UN’s holding facility for undocumented migrants in Libya was unveiled last year as an “alternative to detention,” but critics now say it is coming to mirror the notoriously harsh detention centers it was supposed to replace. The facility is overcrowded with nearly 1,200 migrants—about twice the number it was built for—including hundreds who fled from abuse at other detention centers in hopes of sanctuary. Conditions inside are deteriorating fast, and there are accusations that the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is planning to force migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers to leave by cutting off food (a claim the agency denies). The people inside are among an estimated 600,000 migrants in Libya, including more than 45,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers. Some have come in search of work, others are hoping to make the incredibly dangerous trip to Europe. Those who risk it are often “rescued” by the Libyan coast guard and returned to land, and end up in the country’s oppressive detention centers—which is among the reasons a recent French plan to give the Libyan coast guard more boats met with strong opposition. (Photo: Sara Creta/MSF via TNH)

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drone

Drone wars over Libya

With the forces of eastern strongman Khalifa Hifter stalled outside Tripoli in his drive to oust Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), both sides have been sniping at each other with drone strikes. Experts say that Haftar has procured Chinese-made Wing Loong drones from his main backer, the United Arab Emirates. The GNA, meanwhile, has turned to Ankara, its own increasingly open backer, which is believed to be supplying Turkish Bayraktar drones. Over 1,000 have been killed, close to 6,000 injured, and 120,000 displaced in the battle for Tripoli, which opened a year ago. (Photo of Wing Loong II drone via Xinhua)

North Africa

UN, African Union to evacuate refugees from Libya

The government of Rwanda, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the African Union signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a transit mechanism for evacuating refugees out of Libya. According to a joint statement, around 4,700 are currently being held in detention centers in Libya and urgently need to be transferred to safety. Under the agreement, refugees and asylum-seekers currently being held in Libya will be transferred to Rwanda on a “voluntary” basis. Evacuees will then either be resettled to third countries, be returned to countries where asylum had previously been granted, be returned to their home countries if it is safe to do so, or be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

Iran

Federal judge allows travel ban lawsuit to proceed

Judge Victoria Roberts of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that a lawsuit by the Arab American Civil Rights League against the Trump administration’s third iteration of his “travel ban,” which restricts travel from seven countries, can move forward. The administration sought to have the lawsuit dismissed based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, in which the court held that the Immigration and Nationality Act grants the president broad discretion to decide “whether and when to suspend entry, whose entry to suspend, for how long, and on what conditions.” Roberts held in the present case that “although the Proclamation is facially neutral, its impact falls predominantly on Muslims.” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Jurist)

North Africa

Libya: did Haftar bomb migrant detention center?

The UN is calling for an urgent investigation into the “outrageous” bombing of a migrant detention center at Tajoura, outside Libya’s capital Tripoli, which left at least 44 dead. Libya’s UN-recognized government issued a statement blaming the air-strike on warlord Khalifa Haftar, who has for months been besieging Tripoli. Already believed to be supported by France and Russia, he has now also apparently established contact with Washington. The White House admitted in April that President Trump had spoken by phone with Haftar and discussed “ongoing counter-terrorism efforts.”  (Photo via Libya Observer)

North Africa

France backing Haftar bid to rule Libya?

Libya’s weak UN-backed government is bracing for an offensive on Tripoli by the country’s strong eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, generally referred to as a “renegade general.” Haftar ordered his forces amassed on the outskirts to advance on Tripoli and “conquer” it whether by peaceful means or force. Militias loyal to the “official” government are scrambling to erect defenses. This comes weeks after hundreds of Chadian rebel fighters were expelled from southern Libya by Hafter’s forces, and reportedly surrendered to Chad’s French-backed military. Already backed by Russia, Haftar now appears to be making a bid for French support as the man who can bring stability to Libya.

North Africa

UN reports abuses of migrants in Libya

A report by the UN High Commissioner on Libya described the ill-treatment of migrants and refugees in the North African country, including rape and torture by smugglers, traffickers, Libyan officials and armed groups. Migrants and refugees freed from detention in Libya testified about the extortion technique whereby the perpetrators force them to call their families, who will hear the screams until they pay a ransom. Migrants from Africa pass through Libya to reach European countries, who work with the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrant ships at sea. The report urged European Union member states to reconsider aid to the Libyan Coast Guard, and to end the restriction on migrant rescue operations by nonprofit organizations. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

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Lavalin-Libya sleaze at issue in Trudeau turpitude

Canadian opposition parties are crying foul after an investigation into the corruption scandal rocking the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was shut down by a parliamentary committee dominated by his ruling Liberals. The affair concerns Quebec-based construction giant SNC-Lavalin’s apparent attempts to secure leniency from the Trudeau government in various criminal investigations it faces. Obstruction of justice charges were stayed earlier this year against Lavalin executive Sami Bebawi, on the ostensible basis that too much time had elapsed since the offense under investigation—which involved alleged bribes to the Moammar Qaddafi regime to secure construction contracts in Libya in 2011. The company is best known within Canada for controversial mega-projects under contruction from British Columbia to Labrador. (Photo: BC Hydro via Journal of Commerice)

North Africa

Dire situation for migrants and refugees in Libya

Migrants and refugees in Libya are facing severe human rights violations, according to a UN report. The UN Support Mission in Libya and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights collaborated to generate the report, which is based on some 1,300 first-hand accounts, detailing human rights violations by state officials and armed groups, as well as abuses committed by smugglers and traffickers. The report finds that Libya “criminalizes irregular entry into, stay in or exit from the country with a penalty of imprisonment pending deportation, without any consideration of individual circumstances or protection needs.” This policy has resulted in arbitrary and abusive detention of migrants, with widespread forced labor, torture and sexual exploitation. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

North Africa

Force majeure at Libya’s top oil-field —again

Libya's National Oil Company (NOC) declared force majeure at the country's largest oilfield, a week after announcing a contractual waiver on exports from the 315,000-bpd Sharara field following its seizure by armed militants. The Sharara facility was seized by a force of desert tribesmen under the banner or the Fezzan Anger Movement, which is demanding better living conditions for the remote and impoversihed southern region of the country. Sharara is located in the Fezzan region, which produces most of Libya's oil but lacks basic services such as electricity and hospitals. The Fezzan militants were actually joined by members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, demanding back wages be paid by the UN-backed Government of National Accord. Oil production in Libya has been repeatedly paralyzed by unrest, and the NOC is still struggling to restore output to pre-2011 levels. (Photo: Libya Observer)