We would like to describe some of the horror of the plight of the 300 Eritreans who have been detained in Misrata detention centre in Libya. About 50 of them are still there, and the rest were transferred to al-Biraq detention centre near to Sabha airport on June 30, 2010.

Their attempts to avoid deportation by refusing to fill in the forms provided by the Eritrean embassy in Libya were met by brutal beatings. Those who still refuse to fill in these forms, which would have led to immediate deportation back to Eritrea, tried to avoid being hustled into military convoys by removing their own clothes and even, in some cases, drinking detergent since suicide seemed preferable. Unmoved, the soldiers proceeded to beat the naked Eritreans with their usual merciless vigor and sadistic threats.

The Eritreans were loaded into these convoys, with or without their clothes, hungry and thirsty in very hot temperatures, herded like animals, like cattle, in a dark, airless space, and driven towards al-Biraq detention centre, another detention centre, where, after 13 hours of this journey in which they were not even able to stop to relieve themselves, they were locked up again, and the beatings were resumed.

The soldiers told them that their behaviour constituted an “uprising” and, as such, they had no rights. “We can do anything to you; we can even kill you, for attempting an uprising in Libya.”

These people, whose dignity was removed when they were treated as criminals for attempting to seek a decent life in another country, were further humiliated when, even after taking the desperate measure of denuding themselves and drinking poison, they were further criminalised and brutalised by being told that this constituted an “uprising”.

The mothers whose children, ranging from 2 months to 8 years old, and of some of whom were born in captivity in Misrata detention centre, have had even their basic utensils for feeding their children taken away. How can the children eat? The food provided for adults is minimal and barely adequate, so how can the children eat? The mattresses the children used to sleep on have been removed. What exactly are tiny children guilty of?

Since the recent removal of the 230 asylum seekers from Misrata to al-Biraq detention centre, two have been taken away by security guards, and their whereabouts are still unknown. We can only hope that they are still alive.

Those who were viciously beaten and who have sustained injuries have received no medical treatment whatsoever.

Reliable sources informed Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) that some are now at the point of death, and still not receiving any treatment. Diarrhoea and other diseases are rampant in the detention centre and go unchecked.

In the meantime, these Eritreans are constantly urged to fill in those repatriation forms which would bring deportation to Eritrea, where, if they survived the journey, they would continue to be beaten, tortured and even killed.

These Eritreans cower in the corner waiting, even hoping, to die, their last shred of dignity lying in the fact that they refuse to fill in these forms which would help to authorise their own disappearances and deaths. Their only freedom seems to be to choose where not to die.

We appeal to fellow Eritreans in diaspora to take whatever action is necessary to stop these acts of barbarity against our own people. How can we stand by and allow the Eritrean government help countries like Libya to torture our own people, not only in Eritrea but wherever they try to escape? Those of us in safe countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, EU countries, etc.. have a duty to protest this inhuman treatment which is carried out on a daily basis against our own people and in the name of our own people.

Removing your clothes in the vain hope that your captors will not sink to even lower levels of brutality is not an act of uprising but a simple protest from human to human. Unfortunately, the Libyan soldiers and security guards have shown no evidence of humanity. It is up to those Eritreans in diaspora to stage a true uprising by bringing the plight of these innocents to light, to protest to their own government, even if this means stepping away from their comfort zones.

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea

London, U.K

9 July 2010