Rounded up and abandoned: Europe’s covert support of migrant atrocities (2024)

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    May 22, 2024
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It is well documented that inhumane immigration policies are forcing migrants to take extremely risky routes on their journey to seek asylum in Europe and globally. However, a year-long investigation by the Washington Post, Lighthouse Reports, and a consortium of international media outlets uncovered that migrant lives are not just at risk due to sketchy channel crossings and being packed in the back of refrigerator trucks. To dissuade sub-Saharan migrants from attempting to cross to Europe, at least three North African nations are engaging in draconian practices. Evidence shows migrants, including pregnant women and children, are being systematically rounded-up and dumped in remote areas miles from water, food or shelter, leaving them exposed to the elements and at huge risk to their lives and human trafficking. And it is being clandestinely funded and supplied by Europe.

Europe a silent partner in the “dirty work” of deterrence

The investigation focused on three countries with deep EU partnerships: Tunisia, Morocco, and Mauritania. It revealed their systemic and aggressive operations towards mostly black North African migrants. According to the report, tens of thousands of migrants are detained and dumped in extremely remote areas, often barren deserts, each year. This is done to create such extreme suffering that it acts as a deterrent. The training, trucks, and equipment used in these cruel operations can be traced back to money and shipments from Europe.

Marie-Laure Basilien-Gainche, a human rights and legal expert, said,

“European states do not want to be the ones to have dirty hands. They do not want to be considered responsible for the violation of human rights, so they are subcontracting these violations to third states.”

Abandoned with no food or water in the most inhospitable parts of North Africa, migrants, including pregnant women and children, can wander for days before finding shelter and safety. The desert dumps also expose them to increased risks of kidnapping, extortion, modern slavery, torture, sexual violence, and even death. In 2019, a report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Frontex, the EU border agency, flagged these abusive practices, leading to internal discussions by European officials. Five years later, the lack of adequate response points to a tacit willingness by Europe to look the other way while continuing to fund inhumane and abusive policies outside their own borders.

Barbaric policies chase migrants “like animals”

Interviews with 50 migrants who were victims of the round-up and dump policy highlight the abject cruelty of this approach to deterrence. Two women from Guinea, along with their group, were left by Mauritanian forces in a desolate, unpopulated part of the frontier with Mali. They were “chased” toward the border “like animals,” where they had to walk for four days until they reached a village. Lamine, a 25-year-old from Guinea, said despite having refugee papers from UNHCR, he has been repeatedly beaten and detained by Moroccan forces in Rabat, then dumped in the interior. One of the most disturbing accounts involves migrants rounded up and sold by Tunisian government officers for a little over $6 each to unscrupulous military agents in Libya. One of those sold was Moussa, a young man from Cameroon.

Moussa stated:

“What they’re doing to us is still the system of slavery, they have no respect for human beings, no respect for the African man.”

After being sold, Moussa and his group were held by plainclothes militiamen carrying AR-style rifles and taken to a small, dirt-floor prison where roughly 500 migrants were packed together under a corrugated roof. Prisoners were forced to provide a phone number so ransom could be demanded from their families. With only a hole in one corner as a toilet, they were fed once a day and repeatedly beaten, leaving behind scars from machete hacks by guards. To keep the migrants under control, the captors also randomly fired their weapons. Before Moussa was released due to his mother paying the ransom, he witnessed three migrants die of wounds caused by stray bullets. The trucks Tunisian security forces used to round up Moussa and his group were provided by Italy and Germany to “fight human traffickers” or “combat irregular immigration and organized crime.” While Tunisian forces did the dirty work, the investigation makes clear it’s Europe providing the material support facilitating these human rights abuses.

Europe’s brutal immigration policies from start to finish

Whether out in the open, as with the U.K.’s Rwanda Bill and the Illegal Migration Act, or behind the scenes, with European funding and material support for ruthless roundup and dump deterrence in North Africa, the most basic human rights for migrants are not being protected. This merciless approach to immigration must stop. We need compassionate policies, not heartless deterrence, to help people apply and move through the immigration system free from harm and with their dignity intact. Freedom United stands for humane migration policies that protect people from trafficking. Sign our petition to call for genuine anti-trafficking and humane immigration policies.

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Rounded up and abandoned: Europe’s covert support of migrant atrocities

It is well documented that inhumane immigration policies are forcing migrants to take extremely risky routes on their journey to seek asylum in Europe and globally. However, a year-long investigation by the Washington Post, Lighthouse Reports, and a consortium of international media outlets uncovered that migrant lives are not just at risk due to sketchy channel crossings and being packed in the back of refrigerator trucks. To dissuade sub-Saharan

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Rounded up and abandoned: Europe’s covert support of migrant atrocities (2024)

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