The United States is deeply concerned about the well-being of migrants and refugees in Libya, particularly those who hail from sub-Saharan Africa.
According to a report from Amnesty International, an international non-governmental organization that works to prevent and end abuses of human rights, African migrants, refugees, and dark-skinned Libyans alike have been targeted for harassment and abuse by both the Gadhafi forces and groups claiming allegiance to the Transitional National Council, or TNC.
An estimated 1.5 million to 2.5 million foreign nationals lived in Libya prior to the February uprising, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa. Under the Gadhafi regime, there was very little government protection for refugees and vulnerable migrants. Sub-Saharan Africans were subject to exploitation, racism, and xenophobic attacks.
Widespread reports that Gaddafi forces were hiring sub-Saharan African mercenaries, as well as a televised speech by one of Gaddafi's sons in which he accused the opposition of using foreign elements and other Africans to create havoc in the country, escalated attacks against dark-skinned people. Amnesty International cites numerous credible reports of imprisonment, beatings and killings of people with sub-Saharan appearances, on the assumption that the victim may have been a government mercenary.
"The United States is deeply concerned about reports of arbitrary detention and abuse of sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees," said State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland. "We also understand that some Libyans are also being victimized based on the color of their skin. Nobody should be detained or harassed due to the color of their skin or their nationality, and measures must be taken to protect individuals from acts of violence.
"We have welcomed the TNC assurances of their commitment to safeguard the well-being of individuals throughout Libya and the TNC leadership’s cooperation with those international agencies engaged in identifying and assisting those at risk and/or detained, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Organization for Migration. We look forward to prompt implementation of these measures," said Victoria Nuland.
"The United States is working with its international partners to facilitate safe passage out of Libya for those foreign nationals, including sub-Saharan African migrants, who wish to depart for their own safety."