‘Human rights, where are you?’ Eritrean community protest killings of refugees in Libya

  • Hundreds of people marched through the city centre in support of Eritrean refugees
  • Organisers criticise EU for funding the Libyan Coast Guard's operations in capturing migrants crossing the Mediterranean
  • Protest follows a 'crack down' by Libyan authorities which led to more than 5,000 arrests and at least six killings

Hundreds of Eritreans staged a protest in Manchester after 5,000 refugees were arrested and at least six were killed in Libya. 

The protesters began in Piccadilly Gardens and marched up Mosely Street towards St Peter’s Square where they continued to demonstrate outside Central Library. 

Protesters waved their nation’s flag and held placards demanding the protection of refugees in Libya.  

Chants from the crowd of protesters included: “Stop killing Eritrean refugees in Libya” and: “Human rights, where are you?”. 

Elilta Araya leading a round of chanting
Elilta Araya leading a round of chanting at St Peter’s Square

Organisers of the protest, Elilta Araya and Juliana Dalmaso, criticised the European Union’s role in the crisis and also branded the UN’s suspension of services for refugees in Libya as “shameful”. The UN Refugee Agency said they “deeply regret” the decision. 

What roles do the European Union and United Nations play in the crisis?

Since 2017, the European Union have been funding the Libyan coast guard and assisting in operations to intercept crossings by refugees. This action has been heavily criticised by Amnesty International who have reported “harrowing violations” by the Libyan Coast Guard including sexual violence against children.  

The conditions of Libyan prisons have been described by a recent UN Human Rights report as potentially amounting to crimes against humanity. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also said the lack of human rights for migrants crossing the Mediterranean is a consequence of policy decisions made by the Libyan government and EU member states. 

Eritrean and British flags were waved by protesters
Eritrean and British flags were waved by protesters

British flags were also waved alongside chants of: “Britain, where are you?” as protesters demanded action from the government. 

UK Ambassador to Libya Caroline Hurndall was approached by The Northern Quota but didn’t respond to comment. 

Manchester Eritrean community showed solidarity with their global diaspora 

Organisers worked through the night to design and print posters in time for the demonstration and volunteers from the Eritrean community quickly came together to support the global diaspora. 

“Almost every person in this crowd has been affected by the situation.” Araya said. “Many times, the Eritrean community has had to collect money to send to human traffickers in Libya because their family have been held for ransom.” 

The demonstration ended at St Peters Square
Organisers estimate more than 300 people attended the demonstration

The Manchester Eritrean community remained in contact throughout the protest with Eritreans in Libya through social media. The protest was shared across the world through Facebook Live and Twitter. 

Araya said: “Even if our government doesn’t listen to us, at least our people in Libya know we care. 

“As the diaspora community who have made it here, we can’t be here living a good life and not do anything for everyone back home.” 

The protesters say a major source of their information has been twitter account ‘Refugees In Libya’ who share videos of their experiences online. 

Dalmaso added: “We hear the cries, we see the tears.” 

Representatives from Refugees In Libya who wish to remain unnamed described the last week as their “worst nightmare” and say they have been treated like criminals without any judiciary. 

Araya and Dalmaso urge the public to educate themselves on the root causes of the crisis and to use social media to share this issue and pressure global leaders into taking action.