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© Jérôme Tubiana/MSF
17 Oct 19 18 Oct 19

Libya: Detention centre transfer exposes migrants and refugees to inhumane conditions

The transfer of more than one hundred detained migrants and refugees between detention facilities in Libya only exposes people to further inhumane and dangerous conditions, warns MSF.

On 14 October, 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 then transferred to two other detention centres in the same region: Zliten and Souq Al Khamees.

Inhumane conditions

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.

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From bad to worse 

"Closing one detention centre would be a positive step if refugees and migrants were provided freedom of movement, protection and assistance," says Sacha Petiot, MSF country representative for Libya.

"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," she added. 

Unsafe locations

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. On 2 July, 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.

"Alternatives to detention must be urgently developed, such as setting up shelters to provide immediate, temporary protection in Libya"

Sacha Petiotcountry director for Libya

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.

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Action needed

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 outside Libya. Alternatives to detention must be urgently developed, such as setting up shelters to provide immediate, temporary protection in Libya," says Petiot.

"Otherwise, the most vulnerable refugees and migrants are condemned to endless detention and exposed to major threats and suffering." 

More on our work in Libya >