Migrants at the Njila detention center near the airport in Tripoli, Libya | Photo: EPA/STR
Migrants at the Njila detention center near the airport in Tripoli, Libya | Photo: EPA/STR

Amadi*, a 24-year-old Malian, contacted InfoMigrants to tell us about his experiences in one of Libya's state prisons. Violence against migrants in these detention centers has been well-documented and condemned, yet it continues.

"I have been in Libya for five months and I have already had two stays in one of Tripoli's prisons. The first time, I was arrested on the outskirts of the city and sent to a detention center, and, the second time, I was intercepted at sea.

Tripoli has several state prisons (Al-Mabani, Ain Zara or Tariq al-Sikka, for example). Amadi does not know the name of the prison he was sent to.

Life there is unbearable. Fortunately, relatives back home were able to send me money for my release, so I didn't have to stay there very long. I spent two weeks there for my first stay and nine days for the second. Each time, I had to pay a ransom of 3,000 Libyan dinars to get out.

My two stays there were very distressing for me.

Also read: Libya: Teenage girls sexually abused in Shara al-Zawiya detention center

'The guards hit us for no reason'

The guards treat us badly: they hit us for no reason. They open the cell door and just hit us. Whenever they came to the door, I hid in the back of the room so I wouldn't be beaten.

There are about 350 to 400 of us in each cell, which are like giant warehouses where they pack in the migrants. They separate the whites (Egyptians, Bangladeshis...) from the blacks (East and West Africa). I don't know why.

On the first night, there are always too many people. You can't lie down to sleep because the cell is so overcrowded. As the days go by, they transfer some migrants to other centers to make some space.

We sleep on the floor, sometimes without a blanket because there are not enough for everyone.

Also read: Migrants in distress returned to Libya – on Malta's request

'Black people in Libya have no strength left'

As for food, there simply isn't enough. In the morning, we only get a small piece of bread. At noon and in the evening, we get rice or pasta. But it's not even heated up, they serve us the food cold and it's very bad.

Black people in Libya have no strength left, they are exhausted.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) comes by from time to time but they don't help us much. They tell us that they will come back to help us return to our country but then we don't see them again. I know it's not their fault, they don't have enough power in Libya.

People disappear in prison. If you have the misfortune of not having any contact outside, you can stay there for months. If you stay too long, the Libyans sell you and we don't know what happens to those poor people.

The European Union must help the prisoners to return home or at least to get them out of prison. People are suffering, especially in hot weather like this."

The InfoMigrants editorial staff has been receiving daily testimonies from migrants for years, telling of the atrocities suffered in centers run by the Libyan authorities. These migrants report torture, extortion, rape, forced labor, overcrowding, malnutrition and disappearances.

NGOs and international institutions are raising their voices. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced at the end of June 2021 the temporary suspension of its activities in Al-Mabani and Abu Salim detention centers in Tripoli. This decision comes after a series of violent incidents against migrants held in these centers.

*First name has been changed.


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