Emergency assistance to migrants at a detention centre in Libya

The Mixed Migration Working Group (MMWG) has reported increasingly deteriorating conditions for migrants held at a government-run detention centre in the port city of Zwara, 115 km west of Tripoli.

The MMWG is composed of UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and its partners the International Medical Corps, the Danish Refugee Council, and IOM, the UN migration agency. The group is co-led by UNHCR and IOM to facilitate coordination of protection and assistance to migrants in Libya.

As of 18 April, about 800 African and South Asian migrants who had been intercepted at sea or taken from the captivity of traffickers and smugglers have been held in the detention centre run by Libya’s Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration.

The migrants came largely from Cameroon, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia and Sudan, and were found confined for weeks in unventilated structures and suffering from shortages of water and food and in urgent need of psychosocial support.

Members of the MMWG are providing emergency humanitarian assistance at the detention centre in coordination with the local authorities and transferring the most vulnerable cases to Tripoli by air as access to the port city remains hazardous due to the general security situation in Libya.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and members of the MMWG are responding to the most pressing needs by providing medical and food assistance. With extreme overcrowding and continued lack of food and water, the humanitarian response is focused on the immediate evacuation of the detained migrants.

At the end of April, IOM organised a visit for representatives from the embassies of Cameroon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal who have registered 355 migrants who want to voluntarily return to their countries, while another 186 remain to be registered by their home authorities. Their departure from Zwara to their countries of origin took place in the first week of May.

Of the 800 migrants, 88 were in need of international protection and were airlifted to Tripoli where UNHCR will identify the most vulnerable cases for evacuation to a third country.

Since the beginning of this year, a total of 5,109 migrants have been rescued at sea by the Libyan coastguard and sent to overcrowded and undersupplied detention centres in Tripoli and other coastal towns.

Photo credit: IOM. A woman at the Abu Salim detention centre passes the time drawing.

TMP – 30/05/2018