Those currently in the detention centre are registered asylum seekers and refugees. They fled their home countries and are unable to return for fear of violence or persecution. Many have been detained in several facilities across Libya for the last two years and have been through horrific experiences of being held captive and tortured by traffickers.
This long period of waiting for transfer to Tripoli has had a direct and immediate impact on our patients, with MSF teams observing increased stress levels during medical consultations.
Ahead of what was reported as the imminent closure of the detention centre, some of the makeshift shelters in which refugees used to sleep in the prison yards were dismantled, making terrible living conditions even worse. MSF teams have been providing medical consultations and distributed winter clothing to support those trapped.
People are increasingly desperate and attempting to escape the detention centre, at risk of falling into the hands of trafficking and smuggling networks. The failed evacuation and transportation of people to Tripoli is only feeding into the trafficking and smuggling networks which current migration policies seek to combat. Meanwhile, only 629 asylum seekers were evacuated through UN evacuation mechanism outside Libya this year.
MSF reiterates its call that refugees, asylum seekers and migrants subjected to arbitrary detention across Libya must be released and receive protection and assistance. Those currently stuck in Zintan must be evacuated and transferred to Tripoli.