Migrants raped, shot, and tortured before Mediterranean crossing

Doctor working for medical charity reveals that several migrants are being kidnapped, held hostage, and beaten in Libya by gangs demanding money.

Many migrants die before reaching mainland EuropePhoto: MOAS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Many migrants die before reaching mainland EuropePhoto: MOAS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Migrants are being raped, shot and tortured during their desperate journeys to Europe even before they risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean, a doctor has revealed.

Anna Crepet, who works for medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said treating the thousands of men, women, and children arriving in Italy feels “like working in a warzone.”

In its report, The Independent said migrants go untreated for potentially fatal injuries until they reach safety. “Sometimes it feels like we’re working in a warzone but here I think it’s even worse, because we see injuries that haven’t been treated for weeks,” Dr Crepet said.

“We see lots of fractures through beating, lots of gunshot wounds. We find bullets in muscles and under the skin.”

Many migrants tell doctors similar stories of being kidnapped, held hostage and beaten in Libya by gangs demanding money. But even before they arrive in Libya, where smugglers’ boats are launched towards Europe, asylum seekers are driven for weeks through the desert – sometimes in deadly voyages.

Dr Crepet said the Sahara was “one of the deadliest parts of the journey”, with many migrants being murdered or dying in car accidents or of dehydration. She explained that while others were fortunate enough to reach mainland Europe and be treated for their injuries, many others die during their voyage – with the majority of deaths often going unreported.

Crepert said most injured migrants in Libya are too afraid of going to hospitals because rumours that they will be killed or handed over to police and militias.

 “In Libya they’re not treated like human beings, they’re treated like animals. There is a word in Arabic that the smugglers use, they call the migrants beasts.”

Dr Crepet recounted how one man arrived in Sicily with a hole through one thigh where a bullet had passed through and become embedded in his other leg. The medical charity doctor said almost all women who make the journey from Africa or the Middle East are raped along the way, often arriving several months pregnant.

“They tend to say very little about what they've been through but sometimes we see scars and wounds from rape,” she said.

“We know that most of the women who come here alone must have been raped - and a lot of women arrive on their own.”

Dr Crepet likened some of the stories she had heard to torture, telling of migrants being gang-raped in front of their loved ones by their captors in Libya. “Men or women, it doesn't matter,” she said. “We've seen 13-year-olds who have been raped.”

Dr Crepet treated one man with gashes on his arms who had been slashed by smugglers using him as an “example” of what would happen to other migrants if they did not pay up.