A migrant is assisted in one of the detention centers near Tripoli |PHOTO:ANSA/Archive/Zuhair Abusrewil.
A migrant is assisted in one of the detention centers near Tripoli |PHOTO:ANSA/Archive/Zuhair Abusrewil.

It is estimated that about 6,000 people are currently locked up in 24 detention centers across Libya. Now the Libyan authorities are pondering their release following the airstrike on the Tajoura detention center.

The international community has been calling for the release of migrants in Libyan detention centers for some time. Since the airstrike on the Tajoura camp in early July, attributed to General Khalifa Haftar's forces, which resulted in at least 53 deaths and a further 130 injured, the Libyan authorities have opened the gates to Tajoura and released the remaining migrants. 

Now they are pondering whether or not to release migrants in other centers across the country too. The prospect of the migrants' release does not seem immediate, however, given that evacuation plans would be needed, which is expected to take some time. 

24 detention centers 

The map "Libya Detention Centers - May 2019" published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) shows a total of 24 detention centers (DC) for migrants in Libya. The map is available on the UN agency's internally displaced persons (IDP) monitoring system website, Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM). It actually includes 55 DC, but 31 are indicated as "not functional." 

The map does not mention the places human traffickers use to hold migrants. Six of these centers are in Tripoli, four are on the west coast of the capital in the area of Zuara and Azzawya, and another five are located to the south and east of the city, excluding one in Sirte. 

15 to close

The internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj is considering closing down 15 of these centers following the airstrike on Tajoura, according to a statement by Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha. There are eight other detention centers indicated with red dots and therefore "functioning" in the deep south and in the eastern area of Cyrenaica, which are areas considered to be under Haftar's control. 

Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said the LNA is willing to cooperate on an "immediate exit" of the migrants confined in these centers. It is estimated there are around 3,300 migrants spread across the centers in and around Tripoli. Sources at the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR told ANSA there are currently 5,800 migrants being held overall in Libya. They cautioned however that evacuation plans were needed before migrants could be released. 

A UNHCR official, Andrea De Bonis told ANSA that the agency had been calling for the release of migrants from detention centers for a long time. He cautioned though that "European countries must take responsibility for supporting evacuation plans for refugees in Libya."

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