Migrants are being arbitrarily detained in Libya

Doctors Without Borders denounced the inhumane conditions in which refugees are held in Libya. The humanitarian aid organization blames Europe for the situation in which hundreds of migrants are captured this week and asks for an agreement, so that the European Union receives these people.

Many migrants, from various countries in North Africa, Syria and Afghanistan, travel to Libya in an attempt to reach Europe. Close to 600 refugees were detained this week in Tripoli, next to a United Nations humanitarian aid centre, which has been closed. The migrants were peacefully protesting, asking to be transferred to other countries.

In statements to TSF, Ellen van der Velden, head of operations for Doctors Without Borders, says that people were shot during the arrests: “Many people were injured.”

The non-governmental organization explains that the refugees were taken to a detention center in Tripoli, which does not meet the minimum conditions.

“These detention centers are usually industrial buildings. They weren’t created for any form of human habitation at all. They don’t have ventilation, they don’t have bathrooms, they don’t have water… Just a bunch of mattresses on the floor and hundreds or thousands of people who are crammed into cells”, describes Ellen van der Velden.

Doctors Without Borders has a team in Libya that seeks to provide healthcare to detained migrants. Ellen reports that professionals are “mostly treating the diseases that people get from the conditions in which they are detained.” “They have skin diseases, which is an indicator of people not being able to properly shower.”

“There are people who get seriously ill and then we have to negotiate with the authorities, so we can take them to a hospital, because otherwise they die”, he says.

Ellen van der Velden explains that arrests are made arbitrarily and that there are people who are imprisoned for more than a year without justification. Migrants only have the chance to try to escape or to be extorted by the guards at the centre, in exchange for their freedom. A situation for which Doctors Without Borders holds Europe responsible.

“We totally blame the European authorities. After all, they are the ones who are supporting the Libyan coast guard, which is bringing all these migrants back, when they know they are going to be detained. We also blame the European states for ignoring what is happen in detention centers. This has to stop”, he stresses.

The organization argues that Europe must negotiate with Libya, to end the detention centers, and accept the entry of refugees into European countries.

As early as October, Libyan authorities had been censured internationally after detaining thousands of migrants and shooting six people dead in a detention center in Tripoli.

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