The system of migrant detention centres in Libya is a damaging one. It leaves migrants to suffer inhumane conditions without dignity, according to a report by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). The organization warns that funding alone will not alleviate the suffering.

A new report by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) denounces the system of migrant detention centres in Libya, revealing that migrants live "in conditions that are neither humane nor dignified". The report, titled "Human Suffering: Inside Libya’s migrant detention centres", called the system "harmful and exploitative" and reiterates a "disturbing lack of regulation and oversight".

"Once people are inside a detention centre, there is no way to track what happens to them," the report said. The organisation is calling for "an end to the arbitrary detention of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Libya". 

Centres without rules or controls 

The report said that migrants in Tripoli "are all routinely detained for prolonged periods of time in detention centres nominally under the control of the Ministry of Interior". People are detained "arbitrarily with no option to challenge the lawfulness of their detention or treatment" in a system that is "completely unregulated". Migrants are sometimes intercepted at sea and brought back to shore, where they are then taken to the centres. In other cases, they are "detained on suspicion of having HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. Others are rounded up in night raids, arrested at checkpoints or picked up off the streets". 

MSF said there is no way to track what happens to them once they are detained because there's no registration system. Armed groups in Tripoli are "de facto in charge" of the centres. "As a result, access to patients detained inside a facility can be denied to MSF," the report said. The organisation said it has treated "more than a thousand detainees a month for diseases that are the direct result of conditions inside the detention centres, including respiratory tract infections, acute watery diarrhoea, skin diseases and urinary tract infections". 

Malnourishment, panick attacks

Centers are dangerously overcrowded, MSF warns. "Basic legal and procedural safeguards to prevent torture and ill-treatment are not respected". 

The MSF doctors team has treated people with broken legs and firearms injuries, among other ailments. In the past year, Médecins Sans Frontières has treated at least fifty adults suffering from acute malnutrition with some patients needing urgent hospitalisation. Migrants detained in the centres include children, newborns, and pregnant women. "Women give birth in detention without medical assistance. The youngest patient seen by MSF medics was only five hours old," the report said. 

"Detention has a direct impact on mental health," MSF underlines. Detainees experiencing suicidal thoughts, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic attacks were common. "Increased funding alone is not the solution to alleviating the suffering experienced by people held inside detention centres," MSF said. 

"A narrow focus on improving conditions of detention without taking into account the current realities in Libya risks legitimising and perpetuating a system where people are detained arbitrarily without recourse to the law and are exposed to harm and exploitation".

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