top of page
  • Rory O'Keeffe

Libya: refugees held in hangars following torture

More than 14,000 people are being held in a hangar by the Libyan ‘government’ according to the United Nations. They have been ‘rescued’ from detention centres run by militias in Sabratha, but the conditions they are now in are described by the UN as ‘deplorable’, and they are set to be sent to government-run detention centres. It will mean that more than 20,500 people who hope to leave Libya for Europe are held in detention centres run by either the Tripoli-based ‘government’ or militias across the state.

The Tripoli-based political body is still in lock-down in a section of the city’s naval dock, because it is considered too unsafe for it to meet in a place accessible by the public. It exists solely because the US, in December 2016, felt it would be easier to justify bombing IS in Sirte, central Libya, if a ‘friendly’ government were in place to invite it to do so. As a result, it was foisted upon Libya.

The East of the state, (Cyrenaica) which is ruled by a ‘government’ whose legitimacy would be zero if not for the fact that it is absolutely controlled by war-lord and former Libyan General, Khalifa Haftar, and is as a result lower than zero, refuses to recognise the Tripoli administration.

The country’s south (Fezzan) is being violently contested by criminal gangs, militias and a small group of Ghaddafi supporters. It is far from capable of ‘recognising’ a government, and it is far from certain that it would recognise the Tripoli group if it could.

This is the situation in which the EU is hoping to force refugees to remain (while paying states including Eritrea and Sudan to prevent other people from escaping) and is paying the Tripoli ‘government’ to make it happen.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said: ‘Colleagues on the front lines describe a picture of human suffering and abuse on a shocking scale. The rescued refugees and migrants are visibly traumatized – most of whom say they were subjected to numerous human rights abuses, including sexual and gender-based violence, forced labour and sexual exploitation.

‘And there are a worrying number of unaccompanied and separated children, many under the age of six, many of whom report losing parents on the journey to Libya or in the chaos that resulted during the last few weeks.

‘UNHCR will continue to call on resettlement countries and the international community to step forward and open more resettlement places and look for a way to protect vulnerable refugees who need international protection.’

Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Libya, added: ‘We are concerned about the large number of migrants transferred to detention. The detention centres are overcrowded and do not meet the minimum international human rights standards.

‘We stand ready to provide any necessary support to the Libyan authorities in providing alternatives to detention, especially for the most vulnerable groups, including pregnant women and children.’

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
bottom of page