Migrants sit at Njila detention center after they fled from another center near the airport due to fighting between rival factions, in Tripoli | Photo: EPA/STR
Migrants sit at Njila detention center after they fled from another center near the airport due to fighting between rival factions, in Tripoli | Photo: EPA/STR

The UN agencies IOM and UNHCR have called for the international community to make protecting human rights a priority in its involvement in Libya.

In a joint press release, the UN agencies IOM and UNHCR stressed that the international community should consider the protection of the human rights of migrants and refugees a core element of its engagement in Libya. Both agencies urged the EU and the African Union to avoid more tragedies of the sort that occurred on July 3, when over 50 refugees and migrants lost their lives in an airstrike on a migrant detention center in Tajoura, east of the Libyan capital Tripoli. 

'Release migrants held in Libya' 

As a priority, UNHCR and IOM ask that 5,600 refugees and migrants currently held in centers across Libya be freed in an orderly manner and their protection guaranteed, or evacuated to other countries from where accelerated resettlement is needed, they said in a statement. For this, they said, countries must step forward with more evacuation and resettlement places. In addition, migrants wishing to return to their countries of origin should continue to be able to do so. 

UNHCR and IOM also emphasized that the detention of those disembarked in Libya after being rescued at sea has to stop. Practical alternatives exist and can include living in the community or in open centers. Corresponding registration duties should be established. ''Semi-open safe centers can be established similar to UNHCR's Gathering and Departure Facility,'' they added. 

Conditions in Tajoura center 

On 10 July, UNHCR relocated 103 refugees who remained in Tajoura detention center to the Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in Tripoli. This followed earlier attempts to relocate the most vulnerable refugees in Tajoura to the GDF, the agency said in the statement. A day earlier, refugees in Tajoura were given the choice by the authorities to freely leave the detention center. A group of some 300 refugees and migrants who decided to leave Tajoura detention center reached the GDF by foot. 

UNHCR is currently exploring solutions for this group in coordination with partners and the authorities. For the time being, all persons will remain at the GDF, which currently hosts almost 900 persons and is currently at full capacity, UNHCR said. The center is overcrowded and work continues to evacuate the individuals, especially the most vulnerable. However, many other refugees and migrants are in detention at other locations in Libya, in places in which suffering and the risk of human rights violations continue. 

The UN agencies stressed that it is essential that a safe and coordinated release process be adopted for all those detained and that necessary information e communicated on the assistance available. The agencies added that it is also necessary to ensure better assistance for the approximately 50,000 refugees and asylum seekers and the approximately 800,000 migrants currently living in other areas of Libya, so that their living conditions improve. 

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