Clashes between police and migrants at Libya detention centre

Reports are emerging that Eritrean and Ethiopian migrants detained at the Tareq al-Matar detention centre in Tripoli have clashed with police, as they protested against   being transferred to traffickers who intend to hold them for ransom.

An audio message sent on Facebook to The Migrant Project on 5 August by an Ethiopian migrant, asked for help and said that the migrants are being removed from the facility to be sold to traffickers.

The Ethiopian migrant said he and his fellow Ethiopians called their country’s embassy in Egypt three months ago asking for help. They sent their photos and names to the embassy and were later notified that their travel documents had been sent to the Libyan authorities, so that they could be repatriated to their country of origin. However, they stated that they have not heard anything from the Libyan authorities or the embassy since then.

BBC Tigrinya has also reported on an attempt to kidnap migrants from the facility after receiving a phone call from an Eritrean migrant at the detention centre.

The Eritrean man, referred to as Yonas, said around 1,500 Eritrean, Ethiopian, Somali and other African nationalities are being held in an overcrowded building with no ventilation and in unsanitary conditions, with little food and water. Many migrants are said to have died because of suffocation and TB.

“Three people died in the last ten days,” the migrant said to BBC.

A report by the Italian website Avvenire claims that on the evening of 5 August clashes erupted between the detainees and the police, who were taking out the prisoners to be sold, claiming they were going to be transferred to other facilities.

The detainees set two mattresses on fire following the removal of one Somali and 19 Eritrean migrants. Three migrants were wounded as police fired tear gas and beat the migrants  to stop the riot.

Avvenire further reports that the Libyans are accused of slowing the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) registration process by closing facilities on security grounds and removing unregistered detainees to sell them to traffickers.

According to a Libyan source, on 6 August an EU diplomat was prevented from visiting the facility after the Libyans said the request to access the facility was not presented in time, the Avvenire reported.

The Eritrean migrant Yonas told the BBC that he left Eritrea for Ethiopia four years ago and later headed to Sudan, where he paid USD 3,500 to reach Libya.

After a two-week journey he was captured by armed gangs, along with his fellow migrants. He was sold three times as he couldn’t pay the USD 5,000 the kidnappers demanded in ransom, but was later able to escape when a different gang looking to capture migrants for sale attacked the place where he was being held.

The police then arrested and brought him to the Tareq al-Matar detention centre in Tripoli.

“We are desperate, many talk about suicide. We do not see a way out. We cannot go back to Eritrea and Europe does not want us,” the Avvenire reported another Eritrean migrant as saying, also being held in the same detention centre.

TMP – 14/08/2018

Photo caption: A shot from a video showing the confusion that followed the alleged armed attack on the evening of 5 August has been circulating on social media.

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