Migrants detained in Tripoli face rising food prices as conflict continues

Migrants held in Tripoli’s detention centres are struggling to cope with rising food prices as conflict continues in and around the city, Al Jazeera reported.

Detainees at the Abu Salim detention centre say food prices have more than doubled since clashes started on 4 April 2019. More than 400 people including about 30 children are now living at the centre in southern Tripoli.

The Libyan government should provide for the people it detains, but migrants said they have been buying their own food for the last six months. They either work for the cash or wait for money sent by their families such as those in Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan.

The escalation of the conflict in Libya has now made it much harder for them to receive money from home. “At this time, because of the war, the way of receiving money from family [is] completely closed. Also, there’s no transportation. Due to the war, it’s impossible to bring any food from outside,” said a teenager at the centre.  “We don’t have any food from any NGO. Like me, people don’t have money… It is very hard.”

Hunger at the Abu Salim centre is disproportionately affecting those who are already weak, such as those suffering from tuberculosis.

“We adapt to hunger, […] we accept [it],” said an Eritrean teenager there. “[We don’t care] about the scarcity of food, but we care about our life. How to leave the worst country of Libya to [a] safe place. Please, you do your best to evacuate us to a safe place.”

According to a report from Al Jazeera, there are roughly 3,000 migrants held in detention centres run by the Libyan authorities.

A spokesperson from Doctors Without Borders, Craig Kenzie, told Al Jazeera that food has been a chronic issue before and since the conflict. “We reiterate the obligation that the [UN-backed Tripoli] government has in providing sufficient amounts of quantity and quality of food for people that they have chosen to arbitrarily detain in these detention centres,” he said.

Aid agencies are working to evacuate migrants caught in the crossfire. On 1 May 2019, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) evacuated 325 Eritrean, Sudanese and Nigerian migrants from the Qasr Ben Gashir detention centre in southern Tripoli to Azzawya in western Libya where they will be “at reduced risk of being caught up in the hostilities.”

TMP – 13/05/2019

Photo credit: Koldunov / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Detention centre barb wire