Saturday 24 August 2019

Libya pledges to close 'inhuman' centres used to house migrants

Fight: General Khalifa Haftar leads forces against the Government
Fight: General Khalifa Haftar leads forces against the Government

Nick Squires

Libya is to close three of its largest migrant detention centres, including one hit by an airstrike last month during fighting between rival forces.

Fathi Bashagha, the interior minister with the UN-recognised government in Tripoli, has reportedly ordered the closure of camps in Khoms, Misrata and Tajoura following international condemnation of the "inhuman" conditions there.

Tajoura was damaged in an airstrike last month that killed more than 50 people, mostly migrants, during fighting between forces loyal to the Tripoli-based government and rival forces under the command of Benghazi-based General Khalifa Haftar.

There are fears now that the displaced migrants will simply be moved to other already overcrowded detention centres.

It is estimated there are 600,000 migrants in Libya, many from Sub-Saharan Africa, held in squalid conditions in warehouses, camps, detention centres and private houses.

Most came to Libya in the hope of crossing the Mediterranean to Italy, but the route has been reduced to a trickle after the European Union boosted Libya's coast guard and Italy's populist coalition last year closed the country's ports to rescue ships.

The bombing of the Tajoura camp prompted the UN to call for the closure of all detention facilities in Libya, after Amnesty International told of the "inhuman" conditions within the camps.

Battles have raged around Tripoli since April, when Gen Haftar launched an assault on the capital with his self-styled Libyan National Army.

About 1,000 people have died in the fighting.

The clashes have made life harder for asylum seekers who already endure arbitrary detention, starvation, disease and horrendous living conditions.

Women are routinely raped by their captors and men tortured to pressurise their families into sending more money.

Migrants are bought and sold as modern-day slaves by militias and armed gangs.

A few smugglers' boats still leave Libya bound for Italy.

But many do not make it, either intercepted by the coast guard or lost at sea, as in the case of a boat that went down in July with around 150 people on board - the largest loss of life in the Mediterranean this year.

Irish Independent

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