Refugees and Migrants Were Fired Upon by Guards at the Detention Centre — UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – Al Marsad

New reports from UN agencies, NGOs and international media reveal more details on the plight of the migrants at the GNA-controlled Tajourah Migrants Detention Centre, their proximity to weapons depots, and the inhumane condition they experienced.

[Libya, 4 July 2019] – The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has received reports that following the first impact at the Migrant Detention Centre in Tajourah, some of the refugees and migrants were fired upon by guards as they were trying to escape.

OCHA’s Humanitarian Update report just published, stated: “This is not the first time Tajoura DC has been impacted, due to its direct proximity to a military base and its location. Two individuals inside the DC were injured on 7 May when an airstrike on nearby GNA forces impacted the DC. Despite this, authorities have continued to transfer refugees and migrants to Tajoura DC.“

Furthermore, “Over 600 refugees and migrants, including women and children, were being held against their will in Tajoura DC at the time of the attack. It is to be noted that GPS coordinates of the DCs, including Tajoura DC, as well as their civilian nature, had been communicated by UNSMIL to the parties to the conflict well in advance of this attack.”

According to Associated Press two of the migrants held at the Detention Centre in Tajourah said “they had been conscripted by a local militia to work in an adjacent weapons workshop.” They also said:

“We clean the anti-aircraft guns. I saw a large amount of rockets and missiles too,” said a young migrant who has been held at Tajoura for nearly two years.

The OCHA report said that UNSMIL, HRS, OCHA, UNHCR, IOM, UNICEF, UNMAS and UNFPA visited the site of the attack yesterday to “ascertain information and assess the humanitarian needs and response.” The map published by OCHA states that “approximately 500 refugees and migrants remain held at Tajoura DC, in close proximity to military based.”

A map published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) designates the Tajourah Migrants Detention Shelter as a centre located near a military base.

The report says that migrants at the detention centre are still at severe risk. “In and around Tripoli, humanitarian actors remain particularly concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the nearly 3,800 refugees and migrants currently held in detentions centres exposed to, or in close proximity to, the fighting. As this horrific incident demonstrates, all individuals inside these centres are at imminent risk, as they are held against their will and have no means of seeking safety on their own, ” said the report.

A migrant carrying his belongings at the Tajourah detention centre.

On the poor condition of the GNA-run detention centre is added, “In addition to the threat posed by armed conflict, conditions in detention centres are characterised by severe overcrowding, insufficient access to health care, food, clean water and sanitation facilities. Tajoura DC is amongst several DCs where provision of food is severely lacking, with refugees and migrants receiving one meal a day.”

The UN Secretary General had stated in April this year Libya was not a safe port of disembarkation at the present time. OCHA stressed in its report that all detained refugees and migrants in Libya must be released and “provided with safe shelter until their asylum claims can be processed or they can be provided with safe repatriation assistance for reunification with their families.” It urged European countries “to discourage the return of refugees and migrants to Libyan shores.”

The plight of the migrants is a tragic one. One migrant recounted to Associated Pressa nearly two-year odyssey in which he fled war in his native country and was passed from one trafficker to another until he reached the Libyan coast. He boarded a boat that was intercepted by the coast guard, which later transferred him to Tajoura, where he was wounded in Wednesday’s airstrike.” 

“I fled from the war to come to this hell of Libya,” he said. “My days are dark.”

A spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IMO), Safa Mshli warned that, “Migrants intercepted or rescued at sea should not be returned to Libya, where they will face the same inhumane conditions.”