Libya is urged to close migration detention centres

Migrants asking for help in a detention centre Migrants asking for help in a detention centre UNICEF/Romenzi

06 July 2020

The United Nations calls once again for the release of migrants and the closure of inhuman detention centres

One year ago, on 2 July 2019, one of the deadliest incidents since the launch of the offensive on Tripoli in April 2019 took place. The Tajoura Detention Centre was attacked by an airstrike, resulting in the killing of at least 52 migrants and the injury of 87 others. The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has called again for the closure of migration detention centres on the first anniversary of the attack, stressing the need to free migrants and asylum seekers, while providing them protection and assistance.With the COVID-19 spread, vulnerable health conditions of detained asylum seekers and migrants are furtherly worsened.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), 5,049 refugees and migrants have been registered as rescued/intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard and brought back to Libya, as of 1 July 2020. The day after, 260 additional refugees from Bangladesh, Mali, Sudan and Somalia were disembarked in Tripoli.

UNSMIL is concerned that over 5,000 migrants and asylum seekers intercepted at sea in 2020 are returned to Libya and frequently brought into detention centres by the Libyan authorities. Currently, there are 11 detention centres for migrants run by the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Libya, and a total of 2,362 people were held at these facilities as of 3 July 2020. In addition, many unofficial facilities are also in place, and little is known about their activities. Inhumane conditions are witnessed inside camps on a daily basis. According to a UN report released in 2018, refugees and migrants from across Africa, funnelling through Libya and onwards across the Mediterranean, are subject to forced labour, enforced disappearances, torture, and sexual violence. In addition, starvation, beatings, and electrocution are frequent practices within smuggling gangs and militia to extort money from the migrants’ families.


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Author: Barbara Caltabiano; Editor: Gianmarco Italia


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