A refugee hugs UNHCR staff as they meet at the Gathering and Departure Facility in Tripoli, Libya | Photo: UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem
A refugee hugs UNHCR staff as they meet at the Gathering and Departure Facility in Tripoli, Libya | Photo: UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem

In Tripoli, a group of migrants who were being held in the Zintan detention center have been relocated to a UN facility awaiting evacuation from Libya. There are still concerns for more than 5,000 detainees suffering ‘dire’ conditions.

The 96 migrants were from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, and included two newborn babies, the UNHCR said. They were taken to a Gathering and Departure Facility in Tripoli, where they are being provided with food, shelter, medical assistance, clothing, and psychological support.

Conditions in Zintan are “dire”, according to the UN. Living areas are overcrowded and without proper ventilation. In some parts of the center, toilets are overflowing and in urgent need of repair. Solid waste and garbage has been piling up for days and presents a serious health threat. Diseases such as TB among inmates are common. The UNHCR also said the pressure was creating conflict among detainees themselves.

Detainee numbers still rising

There are still 654 refugees and migrants held in the Zintan detention center. The UNHCR says all of them should be released. “No detention center in Tripoli [is] currently suitable for hosting refugees and migrants,” spokesperson Babar Baloch said.

He said new detainees were being brought to detention centers, having been picked up off the coast of Libya, faster than the rate at which people were being evacuated. Last month alone, the Libyan Coast Guard returned 1,224 people to Libya.

The UNHCR has again said people rescued or intercepted in the Mediterranean should not be taken back to Libya. “There is no safe port in the country suitable for disembarking rescued refugees and migrants,” Baloch said.

The UN migration agency, IOM, has said thousands of detainees are at risk because of the deteriorating security situation in and around Tripoli. A report in the British newspaper Guardian last week said that according to the IOM, 3,919 of the 5,378 people held in the centers were “persons of concern”. They included large numbers of children.

MSF calls on EU to take Libya detainees

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has called on EU countries to take in up to 5,800 detainees they say remain in detention in Libya. This number is about one percent of the estimated number of all migrants in the country, most of whom had no plans to come to Europe, MSF spokesperson Sam Turner said.

So far this year, the UNHCR has evacuated or resettled 1,166 refugees from Libya, most to Niger. Italy has accepted 295.


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