OHCHR Condemns “Ghastly Conditions” at GNA-run Detention Centres and Concerned about Migrant Disapperances – Al Marsad

The OHCHR issued a statement condemning the deplorable conditions and lack of oversight at the Migrant Detention Centres in Libya under the control the GNA. It highlights shortages of water and food, over-crowding, torture, forced labour, and human and sexual trafficking.

[Libya, 8 June 2019] – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed its deep concern at the “ghastly conditions” migrants and refugees are being held at the various Migrants Detention Centers (MDCs) in western Libya.

The Spokesperson for the Geneva-based OHCHR, Rupert Colville, said in a statement on Friday, and which was translated and published by Al Marsad, that the UN body has been receiving regular reports on the disappearance of migrants and human trafficking cases after the migrants were intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard.

“Since the beginning of 2019, more than 2,300 migrants have been picked up off the coast of Libya and transferred to detention facilities,” said the OHCHR spokesperson. The Libyan Coast Guard states that since 30 April 2019, it has handed over hundreds of people and quarantined at a detention centre in Khoms “which is under the oversight of the UN-recognized Government’s Department for Combatting Illegal Migration, or DCIM.”

The OHCHR disclosed that the above number includes 203 people who were handed over to the Government of National Accord’s DCIM on 23 May. “However, the al-Khoums facility reports that there are currently only 30 migrants present. This is particularly worrying given reports that migrants are being sold for forced labor, or to smugglers promising them transit to Europe,” said Colville.

He also mentioned reports that some women have been sold for sexual exploitation. The OHCHR spokesperson said: “We have long documented such cases of horrific abuses to which migrants and refugees are subjected in Libya.”

The OHCHR urged the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) to immediately conduct an independent investigation on the location of these missing migrants, and called for holding the Libyan Coast Guard and immigration authorities, responsible and accountable for each and every migrant held in MDCs, as well as observing and respecting their human rights. The OHCHR reminded the GNA of its responsibility for the safety of every person at the detention centres. Libya has a “duty of care to protect the lives of individuals deprived of their liberty, including providing them with the necessary medical care.”

During a recent visit to the Zintan MDC, the UNHCR team found migrants “severely malnourished, lacking water, locked in overcrowded warehouses reeking with the smell of rubbish and waste from overflowing latrines.” Those held in the facilities reportedly received only one meal of 200 grams of plain pasta per day. Of the 432 Eritreans detained at the Zintan MDC, 132 of them are children, have reportedly received only half of the food amount.

More than 60 people suffering from tuberculosis are locked in a separate isolation hangar. Over 22 people have already died of tuberculosis and other diseases at the Zintan MDC since September 2018. Thirty others have been moved to the Gharyan Detention Centre, south of Tripoli, very close to the existing frontlines. “There’s another report that people are being sent to a different place near the front line effectively to die there, because they are Christians, and there are no burial facilities near Zintan,” according to Colville of the OHCHR.

Colville stated that conditions at Zintan MDC amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment” and migrants were possibly exposed to torture, being sold into forced labor or to transit smugglers for Europe.

OHCHR’s statement concluded that approximately 3,400 migrants and refugees remain detained in Tripoli, according to UN figures. The OHCHR appealed to the authorities in Libya and the international community to “ensure that migrants and refugees held in such detention centres are immediately released, that evacuation, resettlement and voluntary humanitarian return options urgently expanded, and alternatives to detention are put in place.”

© Al Marsad English. 2019.