African migrants rejected by Italy in a stand-off with the EU on August 15, said many had been beaten, tortured and raped, the UN reported. Picture: Reuters/Fabian Bimmer

Johannesburg - African migrants rejected by Italy in a stand-off with the European Union on August 15, said they had been held by smugglers for up to two years in Libya and many had been beaten, tortured and raped, the UN reported.

The 150 migrants, mainly Eritreans and Somalis, were rescued in the Mediterranean but waited 10 days while Italy’s anti-immigration government refused to let them disembark, until Ireland, Albania and the Vatican agreed to accept them, Nigeria’s Premium Times reported on Wednesday.

During the stand-off, Italy allowed 27 unaccompanied minors and 13 people needing urgent hospital treatment to disembark but the Italians threatened to cut funds to the European Union unless other states took in the migrants.

Rome has borne the brunt of tens of thousands of African migrants trying to reach Europe in search of a better life.

The UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said its staff had gathered testimony from the migrants.

All were malnourished and exhausted and said they had been held against their will in Libya for up to two years, IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a UN briefing in Geneva.

African News Agency (ANA)