On October 14, Libyan authorities closed the Karareem detention centre in Misrata, in the central coastal region of Libya. More than a hundred refugees and migrants arbitrarily detained in this facility were transferred to two other detention centres in the same region: Zliten and Souq Al Khamees. The poor conditions in these two centres are known by Libyan authorities and UNHCR, and have been reported by MSF teams on several occasions.
Men, women and children arbitrarily detained for months, and in many cases years, with little access to food, water and open air, will be exposed to the same inhumane conditions. Some of them have suffered torture and trafficking in Libya.
The UK and European governments have supported policies which trap people in this cycle through funding and training the Libyan Coastguard, who forcibly return people trying to escape these appalling conditions.
“Closing one detention centre would be a positive step if refugees and migrants were provided freedom of movement, protection and assistance. Instead they are being moved from one detention centre to another, seeing their conditions go from bad to worse. At the bare minimum, people should have been released and taken care of in a safer environment,” says Sacha Petiot, MSF Head of Mission in Libya.
The armed conflict that started in April around Tripoli has made the situation more dangerous for the refugees and migrants detained in the areas where clashes occur. In July 2, an estimated 60 people were killed during an airstrike on Tajoura detention centre late at night. In this grim context, there were renewed calls for the closure of Libya’s detention centres, including by Libyan authorities themselves.
There are currently no safe locations in Libya where refugees and migrants can find protection and assistance. The only UNHCR-managed facility, the Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in Tripoli, is now saturated and UNHCR has claimed that it cannot accommodate more vulnerable people.
MSF urges British and European governments to support urgent humanitarian evacuations out of Libya for refugees and migrants held in detention centres, rather than allowing this suffering to go on.
“We need more life-saving evacuations out of Libya. Alternatives to detention must be urgently developed, such as setting up shelters to provide immediate, temporary protection in Libya. Otherwise, the most vulnerable refugees and migrants are condemned to endless detention and suffering,” says Petiot.
Note to editor
MSF has worked in Libyan detention centres since 2016, providing general and psychological health care services and emergency referrals to hospitals, to alleviate the suffering of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants arbitrarily detained, and to expose the inhumane conditions of detention. MSF reiterates its call to release people, to scale up evacuations outside Libya, and put an end to the EU policy of intercepting and forcibly returning to Libya people who try to escape by sea.
In addition to its programs in Libya, MSF also operates in the Central Mediterranean Sea in partnership with SOS Méditerranée, on board the search and rescue vessel Ocean Viking, as refugees and migrants continue to risk their lives in order to flee the horrific treatment they face in Libya, and effective and dedicated search and rescue capacities are still critically missing.