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Libya’s torture camps: How Italy outsources human rights violations

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In May 2017, local parish priest, Don Edoardo Scordio, was one of 68 people who were detained by Italy’s anti-mafia police in the region of Calabria.

Scordio, who is currently under house arrest, is accused of involvement in a large criminal network, operated by cosca Arena, a local mafia group that preys on refugees and asylum seekers in the town of Isola di Capo Rizzuto. The criminals stole tens of millions of euros in public funds allocated to refugees in the Sant’Anna’s migrant reception centre.

This would have been a typical news story in a country that is plagued with mafia criminal activities. But it is not. It is a microcosm of a multi-faceted malaise involving various layers of authority, including the government, which often presents itself as the Italian public’s savior from the migrant or refugee “invasion”.

This so-called invasion however, was a direct consequence of the NATO-led war on Libya in March 2011 and the political mismanagement of the country following that disastrous war.

A permanent fixture in Libya’s political upheaval, and its subsequent militia-led chaos, is the Italian government. In order to continue to exploit the country’s natural resources and oil reserves, Rome continues to feed Libya’s political bedlam and infighting, while constantly decrying the resultant refugee crisis.

On 4 October, a newspaper investigation highlighted the sordid role of the Italian government in the Libyan war, particularly with regard to the country’s growing humanitarian crisis.

Italy’s Catholic newspaper L’Avvenire confirmed (Link in Italian) existing suspicions that the Italian government was working closely with one Abd Al-Rahman Milad – known as Bija – to stem the flow of refugees from the porous Libyan coast.

Bija is a well-known character to human rights groups and United Nations workers, as well as to refugees who escaped Libya. A UN Security Council report identified him as the “head of the Zawiyah coastguard” who is “involved in smuggling activities” and was “directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats using firearms.”

The Italian Defense Ministry itself concurs with this depiction. In an official report (Link in Italian) that was released on 10 May 2017, the ministry stated that Bija had been the one “controlling the smuggling business from the west of Tripoli to the border with Tunisia since 2015.”

READ: Libya PM says elections not quotas can solve crisis

Yet, only one day after the publication of the report, Bija was hosted by the Italian government to take part in the discussions that following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Rome and Tripoli to combat “illegal immigration [and] human trafficking.”

The meetings, involving Bija and Italian officials took place in Cara di Mineo, in the city of Catania in Sicily. Officially opened in 2011, Cara di Mineo is considered one of Europe’s biggest camps for migrants and asylum seekers. The irony is that many refugees in that camp were trafficked by Bija himself. They were the ones........

© Middle East Monitor