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African refugees trapped in Libya

March 6, 2011

by H. Vincent Harris

Anti-Gaddafi militia members escort a man they suspect of being a mercenary. – Photo: AP
Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Uri Rosenthal reacted to the Libyan crisis with two goals: “Let’s get Dutch citizens out of Libya safely and make sure no more immigrants reach Europe.”

Meanwhile, the Italian government’s reaction focused on the “threat of massive immigration from Libya.”

The U.N. recently published a report on racism in Libya against the 2 million Sub-Saharan migrant workers.

In that context, we read about the fate of thousands of stranded African refugees inside Libya. Adding to their hopeless situation is Gaddafi’s use of African mercenaries. The mercenary story has of course been widely published and will soon be circulating at high speed throughout the African blogosphere. Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali bloggers have already geared up in a desperate cry for help.

Yusuf Dirir Ali, a Somali blogger writes, “Many angry mobs are targeting Black Africans after reports that the government was using ‘African mercenaries’ to repress the revolt was transmitted by Western media.” Another Somali blogger, Somali for Jesus, repeated this cry for help.

Many angry mobs are targeting Black Africans after reports that the government was using ‘African mercenaries’ to repress the revolt was transmitted by Western media.

Europeans will try very hard to keep this story out of the news. They want us to see instead pictures of “our” pilots flying European and American citizens to Crete or Cyprus. Somalilandpress reported the lynching of four Somali immigrants in Libya. In all likelihood, these lynching were a response to the stories of mercenaries killing Libyans in the street of Tripoli.

Europe has a heavy responsibility for the wellbeing of refugees in Libya. I say this for obvious reasons. European governments, like the Netherlands, helped Libya to create a buffer against Southern African immigration to Europe. Who does not remember Gaddafi’s recent visit to Italy? It seemed funny to see one of the most xenophobic presidents in Europe receive Gaddafi but, in reality, the visit was in line with European policy to use Libya as a buffer zone to counter immigration.

UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, issued this statement: “UNHCR fears for the safety of refugees caught in Libya’s violence.”

Anthony Loewenstein writes that Germany trained Libyan forces: “Schroeder was fixing up a deal whereby elite German commandos would train the Libyan security services.”

I encourage my fellow bloggers and all my readers to start blogging this story, just like migrants at sea, as well as mutually sharing the story through social media.

“African refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea have told us that just being a Black face in Libya is very dangerous at the moment,” UNHCR spokeswoman Sybella Wilkes told Reuters.

H. Vincent Harris, based in The Netherlands, is a writer and new media consultant, Colored Opinions blogger and host of Colored Opinions Blog Talk Radio, a talk show about the Great Lakes Region of Africa, emphasizing Rwanda, Congo and Burundi.

Gaddafi’s Libya, African refugees and European xenophobia

by Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News, March 6, 2011

Vincent Harris reports that European governments collaborated with Gaddafi to prevent migrants from making their way to Europe from Libya’s long Mediterranean coastline.
KPFA Weekend News Anchor David Landau: Black sub-Saharan Africans in Libya are in peril consequent to both racism and Western media reports that Muammar Gaddafi is using “African mercenaries,” meaning Black Africans, to put down the Libyan uprising. Pleas for help have gone up on blogs in North Africa, and both NGOs and multilateral organizations are seeking access, resources and the relaxation of immigration restrictions so as to evacuate those endangered. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has more.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Al Jazeera English recorded the voice of this Nigerian, who goes by the name of Courage, after he escaped an attack in Libya this week:

Courage: When I was coming from my work, I looked on my back. There were car after me, chasing me. They said I should stop. I can’t stop because they were holding cutlass and dangerous weapons with them. I was running for my life. If they had caught me, that would have been the end of my life.

KPFA: Vincent Harris, creator of the Netherlands-based blog Colored Opinions spoke with KPFA about what he calls xenophobic, anti-immigrant politics in Europe. He says European governments have a history of collaboration with Gaddafi to maintain a buffer zone meant to restrict African immigration to Europe by boat from the Libyan coast. Harris said that constraining African immigration is a high priority of most European governments and that, in exchange for his help with this goal, Gaddafi received military training for his army and acceptance in European capitals:

Vincent Harris: They needed Gaddafi to solve this perceived problem, that Africans were crossing into Europe from Libya. They worked together to make sure that no Africans go into Europe.

Harris added that North Africans are nevertheless likely to meet more xenophobia than sub-Saharan Africans in Europe because Europeans perceive North Africans as Muslims and Black Africans as Christians. He also reported that on March 3, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles urged the European Commission to appeal to EU member nations to help evacuate and offer protection to 4,000 sub-Saharan refugees who are currently trapped in Libya. Harris’s report, “Africans trapped in Libya,” can be found above and on

For Pacifica, KPFA and Afrobeat Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.

San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, Colored Opinions, Black Star News, the Newsline EA (East Africa) and her own blog, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, Weekend News on KPFA and her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at This story first appeared on her blog.

9 thoughts on “African refugees trapped in Libya

  1. John Mulligan

    Why is Europe responsible for sub-Saharan illegal immigrants? Europe wanted to protect its borders so they cooperated with neighboring countries. Pretty common. How is Europe responsible for sub-Saharan immigrants coming into Libya? Why is controlling immigration to Europe xenophobia? Europe has a right to decide who comes to Europe.

    1. Aaron Aarons

      No! Until 'Europe' has compensated Africans for (1) the loot, probably worth trillions of present-day dollars, that has been taken from Africa by Europeans over the last two milennia and (2) the land and other resources taken by European illegal migrants (ARMED invaders, not refugees) in Africa over the last two centuries or so, 'Europe' has no business telling any Africans if, when and where they can go to or in Europe.

  2. Werwolf

    Were Minister of Information JR's travel costs covered by the Libyan government during his visit to a conference hosted by Qadafi? Also, does JR have anything to add to that report now that Qadafi is using tanks, planes, and foreign troops to kill his people by the thousands?

  3. Werwolf

    Again I don't want to imply that they were, but Qadafi has a history of cutting big checks, so I want to provide JR an opportunity to make a disclosure, if one is necessary.

  4. Vincent Harris

    Thanks John Mulligan for being part of the sfbayview community and participating in the debate.Xenophobic one-issue parties and politicians in Europe emphasizing the supposed superiority of western judeo-christian values, have for over a decade been on the rise. In the Netherlands, in Italy, in Denmark and in other member-states. Obviously this influences policy makers. In my view, Europe’s effort to curb immigration should be part of a comprehensive approach focused on advancing democratic development both in Europe and abroad. Instead we have seen a short term tunnel vision focused on keeping Africans out. Frankly, I find that quite disappointing.

  5. Thierry

    You forget to mention about Somalians are the group that commits the most rapes in countries Scandinavia. I quote one rapist as saying "In our countries they do not dress like this….to us they are asking for it. Sometimes a younger kid might tear their clothes of just because he's young and wants to see a woman's body." With ideals like that it's no wonder Europe doesn't want them; and quite frankly I could careless how many of them killed because of this terror they take so much pleasure in inflicting on whites.

    1. Aaron Aarons

      And how many hundreds of thousands (millions?) of African women have been raped over the centuries by Europeans in Africa and in the Americas? How many thousands of African women were exhibit naked in slave markets before being raped by their buyers?

      This doesn't justify rape or sexual assault by Somalis or anyone else. But Europeans, including Euro-AmeriKKKans, do not speak from a position of moral superiority vis-a-vis any African ethnicity or nationality. Far from it!

  6. Anonymous

    Wow, one criminal can speak for a whole nation??? Thierry you are pathetic. What needs to happen is the U.N. should step in and get those migrant workers and any indigenous Blacks to safety in Lower African territories. They should be proactive and not reactive to avoid the killing of innocent lives. So because Europeans have caused so much turmoil in Africa, all of them should be killed on sight??? Imbeciles like you are what's wrong what the world.


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