11 October 2021
An estimated 42,210 refugees and asylum-seekers are presently in Libya, of whom at least 5,000 (12%) are from Eritrea (UNHCR: Sept 2021). All of them now feel in grave danger, after over 5,000 of many nationalities were detained in less than a week in Tripoli.
The use of excessive force has been reported during raids and arbitrary arrests, resulting in at least one fatality and many injuries. Among the detained are hundreds of vulnerable women and children.Almost all those detained were sent to dangerously overcrowded substandard detention centres with insufficient access to food and basic services and necessities.
The Norwegian Refugee Council stated that “Migrants and refugees in Libya, particularly those without legal residency in the country, are often at risk of arbitrary detention. Torture, sexual violence, and extortion is rampant in Libyan detention centres. We believe this latest wave of arrests is part of wider crackdown by the Libyan authorities on migrants and refugees in Libya and the environment is becoming increasingly restrictive.”
Libyan authorities say they are taking action against illegal migration and drug trafficking. Photographs and videos taken during the raids showed those detained being beaten or sitting on the ground, with heads bowed and hands tied behind their backs. The raids have confirmed the fears of refugees in Tripoli, many of whom were trapped in a cycle of trafficking and smuggling, detention and exploitation for years before they were freed.
The International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) Country Director in Libya, commented: “We are extremely concerned about the critical and heartbreaking conditions migrants face in what are now dangerously overcrowded detention centres.” These detention centres have been taking in much larger numbers than their true capacity. The largest, Al Mabani, held more than 4,000 people – four times its official capacity. Shara Zawaya Detention Centre, designated for women and children only, has increased from just 71 people in September to more than 520 today, among whom are more than 175 children. IRC staff who have visited some of the detention centres report extreme overcrowding and a lack of access to clean water, sanitation and food. In one detention centre, hundreds of detainees are currently locked in an open yard with no roof to protect them. Forced to sleep on the floor, some detainees reported that they had only received one meal a day since being arrested nearly one week ago. People are being crammed into cells with so little space that they are forced to stand.
The appalling conditions prompted an escape of some 2000 detainees from Al Mabani on 8 October, 2021 during which at least six refugees were shot dead, 24 were injured, while many others fled to the UN community centre, which was soon overwhelmed by the numbers.
The Operations Manager of Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which offers medical services to all detainees in Libya, stated: “We are seeing security forces take extreme measures to arbitrarily detain vulnerable people in inhumane conditions in severely overcrowded facilities. Entire families of migrants and refugees living in Tripoli have been captured, handcuffed and transported to various detention centres. In the process, people have been hurt and even killed, families have been split up and their homes have been reduced to piles of rubble.” MSFis calling on the Libyan immigration authorities to end all mass arrests and to release all persons unlawfully.
On 4th October, the UN appointed Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya also stated that “Migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees are subjected to a litany of abuses at sea, in detention centres and at the hands of traffickers.” said one of the investigators, Chaloka Beyani: “Our investigations indicate that violations against migrants are committed on a widespread scale by State and non-State actors, with a high level of organization and with the encouragement of the State – all of which is suggestive of crimes against humanity.”
Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) is calling for justice for all refugees and asylum-seekers in Libya, including all those from other African countries and Syria, but has a special responsibility to speak for the voiceless victims from Eritrea. Thus, HRCE calls:
- on the Libyan Government and its immigration authorities to release immediately all asylum-seekers who have been detained, and to end at once and entirely the inhumane and cruel crackdown on refugees and migrants taking place across the country; and to hold accountable those who killed and wounded the unarmed refugees, asylum seekers and migrants;
- on the UNHCR and their representatives in Libya to take immediate action, requesting that the Libyan authorities end the detentions, releases all detainees from captivity, and offers facilities for the UNHCR to interview each person/family in order to establish their case histories and claims for asylum and facilitate resettlement.
- on the European Union (EU) to review its policy of subcontracting its migration policies to Libyan authorities who abuse the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
- on all countries in Europe and North America to take immediate steps to help these vulnerable asylum-seekers in Libya, formulating speedy measures to review their cases and process them to provide avenues for eligible refugees to find sanctuary in their countries.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
+44 7958 005 637