Alarming rates of malnutrition in Tripoli detention centre

An alarming number of migrants held in Sabaa detention centre in Tripoli are malnourished or underweight, said aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on 21 March 2019. According to MSF, majority of the migrants held at this detention centre are Eritrean. Other nationalities in the centre include Sudanese, Nigerians, Cameroonians and Ghanaians.

Over 300 people are detained at the centre, with children making up one-third of them. More than half of the detainees have been held for six months or more.

In MSF’s nutrition survey, detainees reported receiving only one meal every two to three days. New arrivals have to wait up to four days before receiving any food. As a result, nearly a quarter of them are malnourished or underweight.

“The situation is extremely concerning,” said Kees Keus, MSF’s Health Adviser in Libya. “Our medical teams see patients who have stopped taking medications because they have nothing to eat, and food is consistently identified as the primary cause of anxiety.” MSF added that the discontinuation of drugs has caused the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis at Sabaa and other detention centres.

The report revealed that the levels of malnutrition recorded are almost two times higher among new arrivals. This suggests that the situation at the hands of smugglers or traffickers is even worse than inside the detention centres.

“What we see today in this single detention centre is symptomatic of an uncontrolled, unjustified, and reckless system that puts the lives of refugees and migrants at risk,” said Karline Kleijer, MSF’s Head of Emergencies.

“We’re talking about the basic necessities required to sustain human life. If food, shelter, and essential services can’t be provided in a consistent and appropriate manner, then these people should be released immediately by the Libyan authorities.”

An estimated 670,000 refugees, migrants and asylum seekers are in Libya, all of whom are regularly exposed to human rights abuses including extortion, torture and other ill-treatment, sexual violence, exploitation and forced labour, said MSF. The Libyan government currently holds more than 5,700 migrants in state-run detention centres similar to Sabaa.

Libya also regularly intercepts migrants on route to Europe and returns them to Libya. The coastguard and others maritime groups returned at least 1,000 migrants to Libya in the first two months of 2019.

TMP – 28/03/2019

Photo: Guillaume Binet/Myop/MSF. A guard closes the door of a cell in Abu Salim detention centre in Tripoli, Libya, 2017.