UN human rights chief calls for protection of migrant routes following reports of mass grave along Libya-Tunisia border

Another mass grave is reported to have been found in the desert along the Libya-Tunisia border, UN Human Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk confirmed in an address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday. The mass grave would be the second found in Libya this year.

During his address, Türk committed his Office to following up on these reports:

We are following up on reports of another mass grave recently discovered in the desert area at the Libya-Tunsia border. I urge the authorities to respond swiftly to our inquiries and to investigate these crimes fully. The loved ones of those who died have every right to know the truth, and the responsibility for investigating these crimes falls squarely with the Libyan authorities.

Earlier in March, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported the discovery of the bodies of at least 65 migrants in southwest Libya.  The Missing Migrant Project has recorded 15,682 missing migrants since 2014. According to Türk, “the dehumanization of these individuals who are in a vulnerable situation continues to take place at the hands of both state and non-state actors, often working in collusion.”

The risks faced by refugees and migrants traversing routes across East and West Africa towards the Mediterranean Sea are well-documented. In making the journey, refugees contend with gender-based violence, arbitrary detention, trafficking and torture, among other abuses.  Amidst widespread human rights violations against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, regional and international cooperation is urgently needed.

In reference to a report released last week by the Office for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calling for concrete, routes-based protection responses, Türk appealed to border authorities to protect migrants: “I urge the Libyan authorities to adopt a comprehensive legal and policy framework on refugees and migrants that is in line with Libya’s human rights and Refugee law obligations.”