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Somali man kills himself in Libyan detention centre

A 28-year-old Somali man set himself on fire on 24 October 2018 at the Tariq Al-Sikka detention centre in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, according to fellow detainees and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In accounts from fellow detainees on Al Jazeera, Abdulaziz doused himself in petrol from a generator and lit himself. This happened after a visit from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), where officials had reportedly told him that he had no chance of being evacuated from Libya.

He felt completely hopeless, they said.

UNHCR said the suicide attempt had nothing to do with their visit, and Abdulaziz was scheduled for evacuation to Niger next month, though it is unclear why he had not been told about it. IOM said Abdulaziz was brought to hospital in Tripoli for intensive medical care, but he eventually died.

Many of the migrants at the centre were brought back by the Libyan coastguard after they were intercepted at sea on their way to Italy. Aid agencies oppose the practice and in September 2018, UNHCR updated its policy to declare Libya unsafe for people to return to.

Triq al Sikka is described by refugees and migrants as one of the worst centres to be held in, due to the neglect and abuse. It holds more than 400 people, and most spend every day in the dark.

“It’s just like hell,” one former detainee told Al Jazeera. “An abomination.” The migrants originate mainly from Eritrea and Somalia, but include Ethiopians, Sudanese, Yemenis, Syrians and South Sudanese.

There are roughly 30 married couples among those in the detention centre, and couples can meet and speak for about 10 minutes per week. Abdulaziz, the Somali man who killed himself, was married, and his wife remains in the centre.

The distress experienced by irregular migrants on these journeys can manifest in various ways. One detainee told Al Jazeera that some detainees have begun to talk to themselves, sleep in the toilet, get angry, or “play with dirty things”.

“Prison is very sensitive for the mind. When you stay a long time without anything in prison you have to become crazy or die. This prison is very, very hard for human beings.”

Former detainees said guards would sell detainees to smugglers. “These Libyans only think of you as an industry,” one said.

At least 5,400 migrants and refugees are estimated to be detained in Libya, according to UNHCR. The refugee agency has been appealing for more countries to help resettle detainees.

TMP – 04/12/2018

Photo credit: MSF/Twitter. Photo caption: Conditions worsen in overcrowded detention centres after dramatic increase in interceptions of migrant boats in the Mediterranean by Libyan Coast Guard.