Panel Discussion on the Plight of African Refugees

On 7 December 2017, ELS participated in a panel discussion that debated about the plight of African refugees and migrants in so-called “transit countries,” in particular Libya and Niger. The panel discussion, which took place in Geneva, was organised by the African Centre Against Torture (ACAT). It was hosted on the occasion of the release of preliminary findings of “a mapping report” conducted by ACAT and its partner organisation HURIDOCS (Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems), both of which are Geneva-based non-governmental organisations working in the area of torture and other human rights issues. The “mapping report” aimed at chronicling the role of state and non-state actors with respect to torture and other forms of human rights abuses committed against migrants and refugees in transit countries.

At the panel discussion, ELS was represented by its Executive Director, who was invited to speak specifically on the role of the African regional human rights system in addressing excessive abuses against migrants and refugees in transit countries, most importantly as seen in the context of the latest disturbing reports coming from Libya. As reported mainly by CNN International (in late November and early December 2017), enslaved African migrants and refugees were seen auctioned in open markets, in a manner reminiscent of the out-dated practice of slavery. The media report has sent shockwaves around the globe.

The panellists underscored that while on a long-term basis the role that can be played by the African regional human rights system cannot be underestimated, for the most immediate needs of migrants and refugees in transit countries, a more robust and swift political action (rather than legal solution) is deemed most appropriate. This can be best envisaged in the form of a multilateral action in which the AU should play the lead role. The panellists also concurred that the need to find lasting solutions for the underlying causes of forced migration in Africa is an equally exigent obligation.