“No one helped us,” said 18-year-old Danayt from Eritrea, her voice quavering as she recalled her treatment at the hands of her traffickers. “They beat us with belts. They raped us. Then they fed us. Then they raped us.”
Danayt is pregnant, and terrified at the prospect of giving birth in a detention center with little in the way of medical care. She broke down in tears and covered her face.
Abdel Naser al-Ahzam, an official with the GNA’s Interior Ministry, is the director of the Tariq Al-Sikka detention center. He slams the claims that detained migrants aren’t receiving medical treatment as “lies.”
“Everyone gets treated as needed. Their claims are lies,” said al-Ahzam.
Laki, from Somalia, cradled her baby, wrapped in a pink blanket. She was sitting on a bare mattress in a hot, crowded room.
She traveled from Somalia to Yemen — another country ravaged by war — then through Sudan before finally arriving in Libya.
Along the way, traffickers demanded more money, but she didn’t have any.
“I was tortured, forced to work, and raped. Then I became pregnant and gave birth to this baby,” she said.
She alleged she was last raped in June 2018 in Kufra, a town in southeast Libya, and then again in Bani Walid, south of Tripoli.
“I saw the hell with my eyes,” she said. Her message to relatives back home? Despite your hunger and your problems, don’t come to Libya.”
Rocking her baby, she said she bore no ill will towards the life she clutched in her arms.
“Praise God who blessed me with this baby. I can’t throw it away. The baby is part of my body,” she said.
Laki, 18, did however have a simple plea: “Take me from here.”
Mona, 17, also came from Somalia. She left home, she recalled, because her father died and her mother had no means to support her and her siblings.
In Kufra, the traffickers, who she believes were Libyans and Chadians, demanded that Mona or her family pay them more money. She couldn’t come up with the cash.
“So they beat me. They tortured me. And one night, three men cornered me, took me outside and raped me,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “At that moment, I hated myself. I wanted to die.
“These are people who want a better life,” al-Ahzam said. “They’re escaping wars and misery. They’re not criminals.”
He believes that inmates are receiving sufficient care at the center. “They tell us these stories. We sympathize with them. But it’s all according to their stories. The support [we give] is for anyone. Raped or not,” said al-Ahzam.
Perhaps overwhelmed with the task of caring for more than 700 people in his center, al-Ahzam doesn’t have much time for the horror stories the migrants tell. For many of the inmates here, the future is grim, as they live their lives in limbo at the mercy of Libyan authorities, and their backers in the EU.