MSF: Number of migrants returned to Libya “appalling detention centers” growing

A shot of the living conditions inside a detention centre in Libya. Credit: UN Migration Agency (IOM)

Over the past two weeks, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Libya have observed a sharp increase in the number of people held in detention centers in Misrata and Khoms.

“Most are vulnerable refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers intercepted or rescued at sea and returned to Libya in violation of international law. The number of people living in appalling conditions in detention centers in the area rose from 650 at the beginning of the year to 930 today.” MSF said in a report on Wednesday.

It added that Libya is not a safe place to return refugees and migrants: the levels of violence they are exposed to while in the country are well-documented.

“It is beyond cynical that the European Union and its member states continue to implement policies based on intercepting and forcibly returning vulnerable people to detention in Libya, while also continuing to deliberately obstruct lifesaving search and rescue vessels which are desperately needed in the Central Mediterranean,” says Sam Turner, in charge of MSF activities in Tripoli and Mediterranean search and rescue operations.

The numbers of people detained in Tripoli, Libya’s capital city, are also growing.

MSF said that nearly all detention centers are poorly insulated against the winter weather, resulting in the increase of diseases associated with prolonged exposure to the cold.

In one detention center, MSF medical teams have observed signs of unhealthy weight loss among detainees due to insufficient food supplies.

Recent fighting that erupted in southern Tripoli has left 14 dead and 58 wounded, according to World Health Organization representatives in Libya. Civilians have at times been caught in the conflict zone, including approximately 228 refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers who are arbitrarily held in the Qasr Bin Gashir detention center, previously located on the frontlines.

Power to the facility’s borehole pump was lost, and detainees were left without access to clean water until MSF was able to respond with emergency supplies. MSF medical teams have also visited the center twice in the past 48 hours to conduct consultations and provide medication for tuberculosis patients.

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