More than 12,000 foreign citizens are officially detained in 27 facilities across Libya, according to a new United Nations report. Thousands more are illegally held by armed groups, says U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Conditions in Libyan detention facilities are notoriously inhumane. Detainees reportedly lack access to clean water, food, medical care and hygiene facilities, and face abuse, torture, forced labor and sex trafficking.
Recent protest met with mass arrests
This report was released just a week after Libyan security forces stormed a sit-in protest organized by activists and migrants outside the U.N. community center in Tripoli. Armed forces burnt down the makeshift camp and arrested protesters, moving them to the already overcrowded Ain Zara detention center.
Mass arrests of foreign citizens are frequent in Libya. Notably, a crackdown in October of last year led to the detention of around 4,000 men, women and children.
The role of the Libyan Coast Guard
Many of the people detained in these facilities were arrested while trying to flee the country via the Mediterranean Sea. The Libyan Coast Guard routinely intercepts boats travelling to Europe and sends passengers to detention facilities back in Libya.
As of December 14, the Coast Guard had returned 30,990 people to Libya, according to Gutteres, which is almost three times the number of people returned in 2020. Over 1,300 people died or disappeared on this route, Gutteres added.
Unlawful expulsions from Libya
As well as returning people who try to escape Libya via sea, security forces are illegally removing migrants from the country via its eastern and southern borders.
Since August, Guterres has criticized the widespread expulsions of migrants from Libya’s eastern and southern borders as the nation blocks hundreds of nationals from countries such as Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan and deports them to Chad and Sudan. The expulsions, Guterres says, are conducted “without due process”, and neglect “the prohibition of collective expulsion and returning people without their consent,” enshrined in international human rights law and several UN conventions.
Freedom United’s call to the European Union
Freedom United has been drawing attention to the European Union’s complicity in the enslavement of people in Libya and calling for change. Join this community in urging E.U. governments to support an end to funding for the Libyan Coast Guard, the closure of all migrant detention centers in Libya, and the establishment of a disembarkation and relocation mechanism for people rescued in the Mediterranean Sea which is not tied to the Libyan Coast Guard. Act today.