Members of the Libyan police forces inspecting some 250 detained migrants at the Abu Salim detention center in Gasr Garabulli, 60 kilometers east of Tripoli | Photo: Archive/EPA
Members of the Libyan police forces inspecting some 250 detained migrants at the Abu Salim detention center in Gasr Garabulli, 60 kilometers east of Tripoli | Photo: Archive/EPA

The UN refugee agency is once again calling for the release of migrants from detention centers in Libya. According to UNHCR, there are eleven official centers holding over 2,300 people in Libya, and many unofficial facilities about which little is known.

There are eleven detention centers for migrants run by the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Libya, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR. A total 2,362 people were held at these facilities as of July 3.

The official centers in the Tripoli area are in Triq al Sikka, Abu Salim and Janzour, while the facilities in the northwest are in Zwara, Sabratha, Azzawaya Abu Issa, Azzawaya Al Nasr, Giryan al Hamra and Zintan (Thaher al Jabal), a UNHCR spokesperson told Italian news agency ANSA in July. In the western part of the country there are official facilities in Zliten and Sul al-Khamed (Khums).

Poor living conditions

The situation "in official centers remains a reason for concern, especially regarding the poor living conditions, overcrowding and hygiene," the UNHCR spokesperson said. They added that "food distribution is often inconstant."

There are also unofficial and ''unauthorized'' facilities on which the UN and other organisations do not have detailed information, the spokesperson said. According to them, there has been an increase in the number of migrants detained in detention centers in western and central Libya. Most of these migrants, the spokesperson said, were detained during operations that intercepted boats with migrants trying to get to Europe.

They said that UNHCR has "long asked for an end to arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants in Libya." The UN agency, they said, is calling for an "orderly release" of those detained and alternatives to detention for those intercepted or rescued at sea.

Coronavirus: Threat to migrants

The closing of detention centers for migrants in the North African country "is especially urgent now that Libya [is dealing] with the coronavirus epidemic," the UNHCR spokesperson said. They explained that "detained asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable and exposed, given precarious the health conditions and overcrowding in the detention centers."

They added that, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR had been "able to obtain the release of some particularly vulnerable asylum seekers." They also said that UNHCR, together with partners, had distributed hygiene kits in all official government detention centers in the western and eastern parts of Libya in May and June, in order to curb the spread of the virus.
 

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