Sahara Desert teeming with refugees from Libya, Chad, elsewhere
Some refugees accused of siding with Libya's Khadafi in his final hours
Refugees from many beleaguered African nations have found a temporary safe home in the Sahara desert. Located nearly 1,000 miles from the Mediterranean coast in Libya's desolate southeast desert, the Kufra oasis strategically lays near the long and porous borders of Egypt, Sudan and Chad.
In the isolated Saharan town Kufra, guards order a few hundred migrants lined up at a detention center to chant 'Libya free, Chadians out', before they kneel down for evening prayers.
Migrants continue to arrive at this lucrative smuggling point for people, weapons, drugs and fuel. Both tribes are said to have benefited from the trade.
In the isolated Saharan town Kufra, guards order a few hundred migrants lined up at a detention center to chant "Libya free, Chadians out", before they kneel down for evening prayers.
"Kufra is safer than Benghazi," volunteers Moussa Habib Mohammed, 30, a Chadian prisoner says. As little as a month ago he was caught in the coastal city without a passport, and sent back to Kufra.
Many dark-skinned Africans are suspected of having been mercenary fighters for Gaddafi during last year's conflict. They risk imprisonment by Libyan militias and possible torture.
The conflict is uniquely local in Kufra. Members of the predominant Arab Zwai tribe accuse many of the marginalized, dark-skinned Tabu, who joined the uprising against Gaddafi of being from Chad and intent on establishing a regional homeland and resource monopoly.
In a 2009 report by Human Rights Watch, 'Pushed Back, Pushed Around', sub-Saharan migrants interviewed in Malta and Italy most frequently cited Kufra as a place of detention in Libya, during entry or deportation.
The report states that most migrants were convinced that the police and smugglers worked together. Migrants who were being deported "would be released from Kufra prison - often directly into the hands of smugglers who would take them into custody, demand more money from their families, and take them once again to the cities along the coast.
"All fear being dumped in the desert."
Human Rights Watch advisor Fred Abrahams told IPS: "The government is overwhelmed and incapable of dealing with the migrant flow. The government doesn't have control of its borders and the detention system. In this chaotic post-conflict environment, militias and armed groups are filling the void.
"Some militias are doing the right thing," he says. "Others have been very problematic, with reported cases of abuse and forced labor. There are worrying trends of hiring out migrant detainees to local businesses and farmers. Generally the migrants get paid but in some cases they have not been, which is happening increasingly."
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Sahara Desert, Libya, refugees, human trafficking
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