A 22-year-old Eritrean man died of tuberculosis exacerbated by severe malnutrition after being rescued at sea and brought to Italy, showing how dire conditions are in Libya for migrants, aid workers said on Wednesday.
Huge numbers of migrants have converged on Libya in recent years in the hope of crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, and many of those who avoid drowning are arriving in Italy in terrible physical shape.
On Monday, a ship run by Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish charity, brought 93 people including the Eritrean to Italy after rescuing them on Sunday from an overcrowded rubber boat off Libya. The man, Segen, whose full name was not given, disembarked in Pozzallo, a port on the southern coast of Sicily.
Weighing only 35 kg (77 pounds), the 1.70 m (5 ft 7 inch) tall Segen needed help to walk and was immediately taken to hospital, where he died less than 12 hours later, according to Roberto Ammatuna, the mayor of Pozzallo and head of the local hospital's emergency room.
"He looked like he had been in a concentration camp," Ammatuna told Reuters. "All the migrants who arrived on Monday were skin and bones, and their muscles were atrophied. Obviously the conditions in Libya are inhuman." Three other men were taken to hospital because of weakness and malnutrition. In January, a three-month-old baby rescued by Proactiva died partly because of severe malnutrition, the group's medical coordinator, Guillermo Canardo, said.
Libya has issued arrest warrants for more than 200 Libyans and foreigners suspected of involvement in a smuggling network for Europe-bound migrants, the attorney general's office said yesterday.
"We have 205 arrest warrants for people [involved in] organizing immigration operations, human trafficking, [cases] of torture, murder and rape," said Seddik al-Sour, the director of the attorney general's investigations office, as reported by AFP. The trafficking ring is alleged to include members of security services, leaders of migrant detention camps, and embassy officials from African countries based in Libya, Sour said.
People traffickers in Libya have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants to sea over the past four years, but departures have fallen dramatically since July as some local armed groups stopped smuggling and Italy and the European Union helped bolster the Tripoli-based coast guard.
Arrivals in Italy from Libya have dropped more than 72 percent this year from last, official data show. That means many may have been trapped in widely lawless Libya for longer periods than before.
The United Nations estimates that hundreds of thousands of migrants remain in Libya. Those who make it to Italy tell of being extorted, beaten, tortured, raped, starved and forced to work for no pay.
Even those in officially sanctioned detention centers or living openly in Libya have next to no access to healthcare and depend on international agencies that have a limited presence on the ground, said Christophe Biteau, Libya head of mission for MSF France.