Migrants in a detention center in Libya | EPA/STR
Migrants in a detention center in Libya | EPA/STR

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has published a report on the lack of food and alarming malnutrition in migrant detention centers in Libya, where children suffer especially badly. MSF calls upon Libyan authorities to, among other things, release all children under 18 and ensure their wellbeing.

The suffering in migrant detention centers in Libya is well known, but Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has now published a report detailing the lack of food and malnutrition, even of a very serious degree, that children in particular are at risk of. The report focuses on Sabaa, one of the seven detention centers in Tripoli managed by a division of the Libyan interior ministry and subject to international inspections.

The center is one of five MSF doctors have access to at least once a week. Currently, more than 300 people are detained in the Sabaa center - mostly Eritreans but also Sudanese, Nigerians, Cameroonians and Ghanaian. About a third of detainees are under the age of 18. Over half of those detained have been in the center for at least six months. The aspect reportedly most of concern is the presence of severely acute malnutrition in two percent of all migrants.

MSF called upon Libyan authorities and the international community to respond to the situation in Libya by ensuring an "adequate quantity of food," releasing all children and ensuring their wellbeing, suspending all new arrivals to Sabaa detention center unless "appropriate food or space" is guaranteed, and "ensuring that conditions in detention centers uphold national, regional, and internationally agreed standards."

Newcomers more likely to become malnourished

Also of alarm is the level of moderately acute malnutrition: five percent overall and nine percent among those under 18. Moreover, some 24 percent of those detained at the center, or one in four people, are underweight. The figures refer to February, but MSF said that the latest arrivals are more likely to become malnourished than those already in Sabaa. The report noted that according to an estimate by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are about 670,000 refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Libya. The report also noted that detainees are regularly exposed to human rights abuses including rape, violence, exploitation and forced labor.

More than 5,700 refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers are estimated to be arbitrarily held in official Libyan detention centers operated by the Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM), a division of the Ministry of Interior. MSF noted that its teams in these centers regularly see a lack of sanitary facilities, appliances and resources such as bathrooms, blankets, electricity, light, heating and adequate ventilation. There is also a serious lack of open spaces. Furthermore the inconsistent allocation of basic services "has left refugees, migrants and asylum seekers without food for several days at a time."

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