An archive photo of the migrant detention centre in Zawiya, 30 km from Tripoli. ANSA/ZUHAIR ABUSREWIL
An archive photo of the migrant detention centre in Zawiya, 30 km from Tripoli. ANSA/ZUHAIR ABUSREWIL

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that more than 100 migrants and refugees who were being held prisoner by human traffickers were hit by gunshots while trying to escape from a clandestine prison in northwest Libya. MSF said the shooting resulted in numerous deaths and injuries.

On the evening of May 23, more than 100 refugees and migrants who had been kidnapped by human traffickers and were being held in a clandestine prison west of Bani Walid in Libya, managed to escape from their prison. 

While they were trying to flee, they were followed by their captors and armed men, who shot at them. 

Witnesses said at least 15 migrants were killed. 

The humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) denounced the events. Their teams treated 25 wounded migrants at Bani Walid General Hospital. It said the survivors, most of whom were adolescents from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, were trying to reach Europe to seek asylum. 

The survivors said they were held by human traffickers who had sold them multiple times around Bani Walid and the nearby town of Nesma. 

Survivors' dramatic stories 

Among the 25 wounded who were treated at Bali Walid General Hospital, 18 suffered minor injuries and received first aid and dressings; seven were hospitalized for further care for severe gunshot wounds and multiple fractures. Witnesses said up to 40 people, most of whom were women, were left behind. Some of the migrants said they had been held captive for up to three years.

MSF said many had visible scars, electric burn marks, and old, infected wounds, "illustrating the ordeal they had suffered". It said the majority of the traumatized survivors are unaccompanied minors. 

'Arbitrary detention not a solution' 

"Many people in Bani Walid, including hospital and municipal workers, members of civil society organizations, elders, and members of security forces quickly reacted to protect the escapees as they were chased by their captors and armed men attempting to recapture them," said MSF. 

Survivors were first transferred to a security facility in Bani Walid and then to detention centres in Tripoli. "All necessary measures must be taken to ensure patients can access the required treatment and to protect these extremely vulnerable people from further harm after surviving such atrocities," said Christophe Biteau, MSF head of mission. "Arbitrary detention cannot be a solution. They are in urgent need of protection and assistance".

More articles