Thousands of migrants impacted by recent fighting in Sabratha

Photo credit: Reuters/Hani Amara. Migrants wait to receive food at a detention centre in the coastal city of Sabratha, Libya.

TMP – 26/10/2017

Three weeks of armed fighting for control of Sabratha, a coastal city 78 kilometres west of Tripoli, left dozens dead, hundreds wounded and many locals displaced, while thousands of migrants who were detained by an armed smuggling gang were left stranded.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on 9 October that it delivered humanitarian assistance to the refugees and migrants in the coastal city. UNHCR Representative to Libya, Roberto Mignone, said: “The situation remains very fragile and we are closely monitoring the situation. We are working with partners on the ground to deliver assistance to those in need.”

The number of migrant sea crossings launched from Sabratha, a smuggling hub on the coast of Libya, dropped sharply in July after an armed group struck a deal with officials from the UN-backed government in Tripoli to block departures.

The deal later set off fighting, which started on 17 September and ended on 6 October with the Anti-IS Operation Chamber taking control of the city.
After fighting stopped, local authorities took control of several unofficial detention centres where at least 6,000 refugees and migrants were being held according to UNHCR. Around 4,000 migrants, including pregnant women, newborn babies and unaccompanied children, have since been transferred to a hangar in the city, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

“We are seriously concerned by the large number of migrants caught up in recent developments in Sabratha,” Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya chief of mission, said in a statement. “Alternatives to detention must be found for migrants in Libya.”