Migrants in detention centers in Libya
Migrants in detention centers in Libya

Doctors without Borders (MSF) called for a stop to arbitrary detentions of migrants in Libya who have been saved at sea. The organization has called it "harmful and exploitative."

The statement, titled "Stop arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants disembarked in Libya," was released on Tuesday and urges for an end to the arbitrary detention of all refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Libya.  

"People who have just suffered a traumatic life or death situation should not be transferred to a system of arbitrary detention that is harmful and exploitative," Karline Kleijer, MSF's emergency program manager said.

"Many have already endured alarming levels of violence and exploitation in Libya and during harrowing journeys from their home countries. There are victims of sexual violence, trafficking, torture, and ill treatment. Among the vulnerable are children - sometimes without a parent or guardian - pregnant or breastfeeding women, the elderly, people with mental disabilities, and people with serious medical conditions", Kleider said. 

Conditions in overcrowded detention centers are deteriorating as more people intercepted in the Mediterranean by the Libyan coast guard are returned to these centers. The return to Libyan territory often leads to arbitrary detention, as MSF criticizes.

MSF links the situation to Europe's increasingly isolationist migration policy that is aimed at preventing "refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers from reaching Europe at all costs". The organization also says that a key of this strategy was the equipping, training and supporting the Libyan coast guard to intercept people at sea and return them to Libya.

'Exploited, blackmailed, abused and imprisoned' by Libyan authorities

Philipp Frisch of the German branch of MSF told the press service epd that rescued migrants in Libya are "exploited, blackmailed, abused and imprisoned" by Libyan authorities. The UNHCR has reported that at least 11,800 people have been intercepted by the Libyan coast guard and brought back to Libya.

Doctors without Borders has been operating in Libya for the past two years in detention centers in cities such Tripoli, Misrata and Al Khums. The organization reports a sharp increase in the number of migrants staying at the centers there. "In Al Khums there are over 300 people, including very young children, locked up in an overcrowded detention center," Anne Bury, MSF's deputy medical coordinator in Libya said. "The heat is stifling. There is no ventilation and very little access to clean drinking water".     

Many of the migrants in the centers come from sub-Saharan African countries to the south such as Niger and Gambia. There is no real registration of the migrants in the detention centers, so MSF said it was difficult to track what is happening to them or be able to challenge their detentions in a court of law.  

 

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