Inside hellish Libyan prison for captured migrants

African migrants kept in squalid Libyan deten... 02:22

If there's a hell on our Earth, it may well be the stinking, squalid Libyan prison in Misrata, where migrants caught trying to get to Europe are locked up for months on end, waiting to be deported, reports CBS News correspondent Holly Williams.

Packed 50 to a room, they're infested with lice and sometimes beaten by the Libyan guards.

Many of the inmates paid human smugglers to get them across the Mediterranean Sea, but like Sulayman Saidy from Gambia, instead, they were picked up by the Libyan Coastguard.

"I want to go to Europe because I want to help my family, I want to help my relatives," he said.

At just 22, Saidy's crime was to dream of finding a job in Europe, to support his six brothers and sisters at home.

Just this past weekend, about 6,000 migrants with the same objective were rescued in the Mediterranean by ships from various European nations.

Sulayman told Williams he wouldn't have risked the journey if there were opportunities in his home country.

"60 Minutes" follows migrants fighting to sur... 03:48

"Actually I (wouldn't) go, I will stay there and enjoy my money with my family," he said.

But the desperate men crammed into the prison come from some of the poorest countries in the world, and the promise of something better continues to drive tens of thousands like them to risk their lives in fishing boats and even rubber dinghies.

Libya is in a state of civil war, with two rival factions vying for power. As the country has descended into chaos and lawlessness, it's become fertile ground for human smugglers.

Last year, more than 3,000 migrants drowned trying to make the crossing. But almost all the men in the prison told CBS News that when they're released, it's a gamble they'll take again.

"We would like to be in Europe tomorrow morning, yeah, if we can, and we will," Saidy said.

Politicians in Europe blame the human smugglers for the tragedy in the Mediterranean, but visiting the Libyan prison, Williams said it was very clear that the deeper causes are poverty and extreme inequality.