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Racist attacks on migrant workers in Libya

ICFTU Online, 12 October 2000

Brussels 12 October 2000 (ICFTU OnLine no.207/2000): The Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has condemned attacks on migrant workers in Libya and has called on the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) to intervene with Colonel Gaddafi.

According to the ICFTU, at least 500 Nigerians have been reported killed and many more injured during those attacks. Migrants workers from Ghana, Cameroon, Sudan, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Nigeria were the victims of attacks by young Libyans targeting black migrants, allegedly after the government ordered a crackdown on foreign employment.

Over the past week, a great number of migrants have been forced to flee the region returning to their respective countries, mostly to Sudan, Ghana and Nigeria. Two years ago, Colonel Gaddafi himself encouraged workers from neighbouring countries to come and seek employment in Libya.

The attacks were provoked by news portraying African migrants as being involved in drug-trafficking or dealing in alcohol. The violence spread like wildfire from the Capital to the eastern part of the country, where there have been killings, beatings and attacks on shops.

The Libyan leader, on a visit to the Sub-Saharan region, blamed the attacks on hostile hidden hands and affirmed that accusations of government involvement were false. In the meantime, however, two of his cabinet members, including his Minister of Justice, were dismissed after an extraordinary meeting of the Libyan Popular Congresses, the country’s highest authority.

The ICFTU condemns such violent behaviour towards migrant workers, who came to Libya in hope of improving their socio-economic situation and urged the ILO to take appropriate action towards Tripoli . The migrants represent an important part of the country’s labour force and undertake minor jobs that ordinary Libyans do not want to perform. Their rights are not even protected by the General Trade Union Federation, the country’s single trade union which is controlled by the government’s People’s Committees.