Aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Tuesday slammed conditions in migrant detention centres in Libya where would-be refugees are malnourished and cooped up with rampant health problems.
“These people frequently eat just noodles, without any added protein, often for months, in insufficient quantities,” MSF’s head of mission in the chaos-wracked North African country, Julien Raickman, told journalists in Rome.
The detention centres are frequently in inappropriate places such as former schools, hangars and other buildings, sometimes with the windows bricked up.
Torture, rape, burns — these are just a few of the horrors migrants in Libya are being put through by human traffickers.
One witness told us what he experienced in a Libyan detention camp. pic.twitter.com/kZVY5xdzi2
— DW News (@dwnews) June 3, 2019
“You have less than a square metre (less than 11 square feet) per person in many detention centres,” Raickman said, noting many cases of tuberculosis.
According to MSF there are more than 5,800 migrants and refugees held in Libyan detention camps some of which are close to fighting between forces loyal to the Tripoli-based government of national unity and those loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar. Hundreds more are held by armed groups elsewhere in the war-hit country.
“The number of people who are in detention centres is unacceptable in terms of suffering. But this is a small figure for which solutions are possible. It’s doable,” Raickman said.
MSF also pointed to the irony of flying some migrants to Europe after getting them out of detention centres while at the same time the Libyan coastguard prevents migrants crossing the Mediterranean for Europe.
“We managed to evacuate 400 people from these camps (in recent weeks) but at the same time the Libyan coastguard has returned 1,200 people intercepted at sea,” Raickman said.
Daily departures from #Libya now. Despite the high risk of dying at sea desperate #migrants and #refugees do what they can to escape Libya. There is a clear need of search and rescue on the #Mediterranean! https://t.co/3oiDYNy3St
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) June 4, 2019
European Union cooperation with Libya has been credited with sharply reducing the number of migrants arriving from North Africa and the Middle East from a 2015 peak when Europe faced its worst migration crisis since World War II.
Italy’s tough line on the issue has seen many boats that pick up migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean increasingly return them to chaos-wracked Libya. But there they face trafficking, kidnap, torture and rape, according to the United Nations and aid groups.
Activists also decry rampant human rights abuses against migrants in Libya as they await passage to Europe and urge the E.U. not to outsource the problem to Tripoli.