Libya denies excessive police force against migrants

Migrants sit after they were detained by Libyan security forces in Tripoli, Libya October 8, 2021. [Reuters]

Libya’s interior ministry on Saturday denied any excessive use of force following the mass escape of migrants from a Tripoli detention facility, where several were shot dead according to the IOM.

The International Organisation for Migration said Friday that guards shot and killed six migrants at the overcrowded facility in Tripoli, while at least 24 others were wounded.

An official at Libya’s interior ministry said Friday that around 2,000 people had escaped from the Al-Mabani facility, without mentioning any shooting by security forces.

But on Saturday, a statement from the ministry said that a “security operation” following the escape “was handled professionally and without excessive use of force”.

It said that as “hundreds” of people being held at a detention centre escaped, “a stampede” occurred during which “an illegal migrant died and others were wounded, including several police officers”.

IOM Libya chief Federico Soda had given a different version of the events in remarks to AFP on Friday.

“Shooting broke out and six migrants were killed in total. They were shot by the guards,” Soda said.

“We don’t know what triggered the incident… but it is related to overcrowding and the terrible, very tense situation” at Al-Mabani facility, he added.

Soda said the heavily guarded Al-Mabani centre, which has a capacity of 1,000, had by Friday been housing 3,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, around a third of them in the grounds outside the building.

The killings came a week after sweeping raids in Tripoli, mostly targeting irregular migrants, left at least one person dead and 15 wounded, according to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), while thousands were detained.

Libyan authorities had said they were anti-drug raids.

On Saturday, the interior ministry reiterated that the operations had targeted “dens of organised crime and drug trafficking”.

Libya is a key departure point for tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, hoping to reach Europe.

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