Libya's coast guard has been intercepting an increasing number of migrants at sea in recent weeks | Photo: ANSA/ LIBYAN NAVY PRESS OFFICE
Libya's coast guard has been intercepting an increasing number of migrants at sea in recent weeks | Photo: ANSA/ LIBYAN NAVY PRESS OFFICE

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said a Sudanese man died from a gunshot wound in Libya when a group of migrants resisted being sent to a detention center. They were returned to shore by Libya's coast guard after a failed attempt to get to Europe. The IOM demands "alternatives to detention."

A Sudanese man was shot and killed Thursday as he and other migrants returned to shore by Libya’s coast guard tried to resist being sent back to detention, the UN said. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) strongly condemned the incident and demanded that Libyan authorities investigate and bring those responsible to justice.

"This was tragedy waiting to happen," IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle said in an online statement.

"The use of live bullets against unarmed vulnerable civilians, men, women and children alike, is unacceptable under any circumstances and raises alarms over the safety of migrants and humanitarian staff," Doyle added.

The UN agency said its staff had been on site at the Abusitta disembarkation point in Tripoli when as many as 103 migrants returned to shore resisted being sent back to Libyan detention centers.

When several migrants tried to run away from the guards, "armed men began shooting into the air," and one migrant was hit by a bullet in the stomach, according to IOM staff accounts. 

"Despite immediately receiving medical aid on the spot by an IOM doctor and then being transferred to a nearby clinic, he died two hours after admission," the agency said.

'Stark reminder of the grim conditions'

The man's death, IOM said, stood as "a stark reminder of the grim conditions" migrants picked up by Libya's coast guard face after paying smugglers to take them to Europe.

The UN and aid groups have warned that rescued migrants returned to Libya encounter rampant human rights abuses in both official and illegal migrant detention centers in the war-ravaged country.

On September 12, nearly 100 refugees were taken to Italy, the latest transfer in a larger effort to evacuate the north African country's overcrowded and unsafe facilities.

But according to the UN, some 5,000 migrant women, children and men remain detained in inhumane conditions in Libya — more than 3,000 of them in areas of active conflict.

Libya is a major transit point for migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

IOM demands action

In June, an airstrike on the Tajoura detention center on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli killed 53 migrants, including six children. The incident underscored the vulnerability of the mainly African migrants in Tripoli.

"That facility remains operational to this day, despite persistent calls to end the arbitrary detention of migrants," IOM said.

Calling the increasing reports of abuse and human trafficking from detention centers “truly alarming," the UN agency called for finding "alternatives to detention."

IOM further demanded "immediate action ... to put an end to the suffering of civilians in Libya, especially detained migrants."

With material from AFP, AP


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