September 21, 2009

III. Methodology and Scope

Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report in Libya from April 22 to April 30, 2009; in Malta from April 30 to May 5, 2009; in Sicily from October 24 to October 30, 2008 and from May 5 to May 13, 2009; in Lampedusa from May 13 to May 15; and in Rome from May 16 to May 21, 2009.  We conducted 92 individual interviews with migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, of which 48 took place in Malta and 43 in Italy, and one by telephone in Libya.  We were not allowed to conduct interviews with refugees, migrants, or asylum seekers in Libya.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 29 Eritreans, 23 Somalis, 13 Nigerians, and 27 members of other nationality groups, including Ghanaians, Sudanese, Tunisians, Moroccans, and Gambians, among others.  The interviewees generally were young and male, mostly traveling singly and not part of family groups. The largest contingent, 59, was in their twenties. There were 13 teenagers, of whom four were unaccompanied children under the age of 18. There were 13 in their thirties, six in their forties, and one in his fifties.

Only six of the interviewees were female; males were far more prevalent and visible among the migrant and asylum seeker populations that we saw, including in detention centers, and women were more reluctant to be interviewed. A female Human Rights Watch interviewer conducted group interviews with four groups of females—one group, representing women from a wide variety of nationalities, in detention in the Safi B Block Barracks in Malta, the second a group of families living in the family building in Hal Far open center in Malta, the third a group of Nigerian women in a safe house in Agrigento, Italy, and the fourth, a group of women in the center for asylum seekers in Caltanissetta, Italy.

Despite our repeated requests before and during our visit, we were not allowed to visit any migrant detention centers in Libya. We were able to visit with high officials from the ministries of interior and justice, and with mid-level officials from the ministry of foreign affairs. We also had the opportunity to discuss the situation of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers with both the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Libya, as well as in Italy.

In Malta, we had access to all of the detention centers that hold migrants—Ta’Kandja, both the old and new centers; the Hal Far open center; the Daril-Liedna shelter for unaccompanied minors (which was empty at the time of our visit); the Marsa open center; the Safi Barracks (Block B; Block C; Warehouse I and II); and Lyster Barracks. All interviews in Malta were conducted in complete privacy, including those in detention centers. Human Rights Watch picked subjects for individual interviews during walk-throughs at detention and accommodation centers by asking migrants to identify themselves if they had been detained in Libya. Some of the fifteen migrants and asylum seekers interviewed outside of detention and accommodation centers were identified with the assistance of local social and legal service providers, but were also interviewed in complete privacy and confidentiality. In Malta, we met with staff and guards at the detention centers. We also met with representatives of Jesuit Refugee Services and Mèdecins Sans Frontières.

In Italy, we had access to the three detention and reception centers at Caltanissetta, the two detention and reception centers at Trapani, and the two detention and reception centers at Lampedusa. Although we were allowed to interview detainees in Lampedusa in private, the time we were permitted to visit was limited, so that we were only able to interview four people, which was not enough to get an adequate understanding of conditions there. Because of the limited time available to us, we were not able to conduct individual interviews in the Trapani detention center, though we did tour the facility, speak informally with detainees in the presence of guards, and spoke with the administrators of the facility. In Rome, despite written requests weeks before the visit and repeated requests leading up to the visit, we were not able to meet with ministry of interior or foreign ministry officials.

Individual interviews averaged about 45 minutes, and some lasted well over one hour. In some cases, Human Rights Watch picked individual interview subjects in detention and reception centers from among those who indicated a willingness to be interviewed after we made a group presentation. At other times, Human Rights Watch chose detainees at random. Outside of detention centers, local service providers helped to identify interview subjects.

In all cases, Human Rights Watch told all interviewees that they would receive no personal service or benefit for their testimonies and that the interviews were completely voluntary and confidential. All names of migrant, refugee, and migrant interviewees are withheld for their protection and that of their families. The notation used in this report uses a letter and a number for each interview; the letter indicates the person who conducted the interview and the number refers to the person being interviewed. All interviews are on file with Human Rights Watch.