A young Eritrean migrant was killed in a recent fire that ravaged part of the Zintan detention center in Libya. The cause of the fire is unknown, but migrants there fear further incidents as conditions in the center are poor and cells are overcrowded.
A 24-year-old migrant died in a fire that destroyed parts of the Zintan detention center which located 182 km southwest of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, The Irish Times reported on March 2. The fire broke out overnight on February 29, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
"One Eritrean migrant died tragically in the fire, others were slightly injured. An IOM team was sent to the scene on Sunday morning, as soon as we were alerted, to provide medical care," said Safa Msehli, a spokesperson for the UN agency.
🚨 A young Eritrean died in detention in #Libya last night, after a fire broke out in the DC.— Safa Msehli (@msehlisafa) March 1, 2020
Avoidable tragedies continue to occur despite calls for action to end arbitrary detention and find an alternative to disembarkation in Libya.
The fire started "in one of the warehouses of the detention centre" Msehli said, where about 50 people were being held. Much of the warehouse was damaged, as well as the few personal belongings the migrants who were sleeping there, Msehli added.
"We still don't know how the fire started because everyone was asleep," said an Eritrean who was in contact with a journalist from The Irish Times via Facebook. "The flames and smoke spread rapidly without our being able to control them."
The IOM confirmed that witnesses interviewed by its teams reported that it had been very dark in the warehouse and that they were blinded by the smoke.
'Traumatized' and 'worried' migrants
"For the time being, all the migrants remain in the
detention center," the IOM indicated, noting that the facilities are
overcrowded and that access to hygiene and basic services is poor.
According to another Eritrean witness quoted by The Irish Times, migrants are "traumatized" and "very worried" that there will be another similar incident in a detention centre, which they describe as lawless zones. Migrants are arbitrarily detained in them for periods ranging from a few months to several years.
A fire broke out in Zintan in December, causing property damage and some smoke poisoning.
Since 2017, the European Union has had an agreement with the Libyan coastguard to intercept and return migrants who set sail in the hope of reaching Europe. Once intercepted, they are automatically returned to detention centres. Very few manage to escape.
🚨During the past 24 hrs, 224 migrants were returned to Tripoli &Khums, Libya, by the coast guard.— IOM Libya (@IOM_Libya) March 2, 2020
IOM teams continue to provide assistance including health screenings &relief items.
2,000+ migrants were returned to Libya so far this year.
Most of them ended up in detention.
In the first two days of March, 224 migrants were intercepted and brought back to Libya by the coastguard, according to the IOM. More than 2,000 migrants have met the same fate since the beginning of the year.