Libya: Detained migrants killed in airstrike

At least 60 migrants were killed and more than 130 were injured in an airstrike on a migrant detention centre in Libya on 3 July.

The Tajoura detention centre near the capital Tripoli housed more than 600 refugees and migrants, most of them from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia.

The United Nations has called for an independent inquiry into the attack and said it may constitute a war crime.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) issued a joint statement condemning the attack, “Our two organizations strongly condemn this and any attack on civilian life. We also call for an immediate end to the detention of migrants and refugees.”

At least 6,000 refugees and migrants are being held in dire conditions in Libyan detention centres without proper access to healthcare, food and clean water. More than 20 detainees have died from preventable illnesses since September 2018. Others have been caught up in the conflict and forced to fight on the front lines.

Prince Alfani, the Libya medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders called for the urgent evacuation of refugees and migrants from Libya: “What is needed now is not empty condemnation but the urgent and immediate evacuation of all refugees and migrants held in detentions centers out of Libya.” 

From January to May 2019, more than 1, 000 refugees and migrants were evacuated or re-settled out of Libya by UNHCR. However, there are still some 3,300 migrants who are still being held in several detention centres across Libya which are “considered at risk,” according to the IOM.

The ongoing conflict in Libya coupled with the Libyan coast guard efforts to prevent migrants from crossing the sea for Europe, has left thousands of African migrants stranded in the country with no safe way out. Over 3,000 refugees and migrants intercepted at sea have been returned to Libya in 2019. Those migrants that manage to escape Libya on unsafe boats are at risk of capsizing and perishing at sea due to Italy’s refusal to allow migrant ships from Libya to enter Italian ports. On 29 June, the German captain of a migrant rescue ship, carrying 42 migrants from Libya, was arrested and later released after illegally entering Italian waters.

UNHCR is calling for an end to detention for migrants and refugees in Libya.

TMP – 04/07/2019

Photo credit: @penlibya / Twitter