Libya has been forcibly expelling groups of migrants, transporting them to the border and leaving them stranded there, the UN human rights office says. It has called on Libya to stop the practice immediately.
The office of the UN human rights commissioner (OHCHR) says that last week, a group of 18 Sudanese migrants was transfered from the Ganfouda detention center in Benghazi to the al-Kufra center in southeastern Libya, from where they were apparently taken across the Sahara desert to the Libya-Sudan border area and dumped.
A month earlier, another group of 19 Sudanese were deported to Sudan, also from the Ganfouda and al-Kufra centers, the OHCHR says. Both facilities are run by the Libyan Ministry of Interior’s Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM).
"We are deeply concerned by a continuing series of forced expulsions of asylum-seekers and other migrants in Libya, including two large groups of Sudanese over the past month," the OHCHR said in a written statement on Human Rights Day, December 10.
The office also said that other migrants from Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and Chad – including children and pregnant women – had also been detained and had either already been expelled or might be at any moment.
In particular, the OHCHR is worried about a group of 24 Eritreans being held in the Ganfouda detention center and believed to be at risk of deportation. On December 3, they were told that the group had been transferred to the al-Kufra detention center in preparation for their deportation.
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Libya in breach of law
"Such expulsions of asylum-seekers and other migrants in search of safety and dignity in Libya, without the necessary due process and procedural guarantees, contravene the prohibition of collective expulsions and the principle of non-refoulement under international human rights and refugee law," the OHCHR statement said.
The Sudanese who were expelled on Monday, December 6, had no access to legal assistance and were not able to challenge the lawfulness of the expulsion order, according to the UN.
Migrants expelled from Libya are often forced to take long and dangerous journeys across the Sahara Desert without adequate safety equipment, food, water or medical care, it added.
Moreover, those who are expelled from Libya have also often survived serious human rights abuses, including detention, trafficking, sexual violence, and torture.
The UN office called for the rights of all migrants in Libya, regardless of their status, to be protected, and for all claims of violations and abuse to be investigated and prosecuted in fair trials.
Libya must also act to meet its obligations under international human rights law, including the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsions, the OHCHR said.
Outside the headquarters of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Tripoli, migrants have been holding protests for several weeks, demanding to be evacuated from Libya.