The United Nations is calling for all migrant detention centers in Libya to be shut down following last week’s airstrike on one center that killed more than 50 refugees and migrants.
Around 120 migrants were at the Tajoura Detention Centre when it was hit on July 3, killing both women and children. A UN official said the attack could constitute a war crime.
The UN says that these “awful” detention centers are not safe for migrants, many of whom are African refugees who were caught by the Libyan Coast Guard in the Mediterranean Sea and locked up. These detention facilities have been linked to documented cases of human trafficking, forced labor, and disappearances.
The BBC reports:
The UN refugee agency said the centres should be dismantled immediately, and their detainees freed into their surrounding communities. The agency said it is ready to help support them there.
The UN has been critical of European policies that favour returning to Libya migrants who are rescued at sea, stating that the country isn’t safe for them.
The UN-backed government, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, accused the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) of carrying out an air strike on the centre.
The LNA said it had attacked a pro-government camp near the centre and pro-government forces had fired shells in response, hitting the migrant centre by accident.
Separately, in response to the airstrike Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles put out a call for the EU to help evacuate migrants from Libya’s detention centers.
They are urging European Union foreign ministers meeting at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday July 15 to call on Libyan authorities to shut the facilities.
“The horrific attack on the Tajoura detention centre last week has once more showed the mortal danger that women, men and children locked up in Libya are exposed to,” explained Matteo de Bellis, a researcher on migration and asylum at Amnesty International.
“Rather than keeping their eyes closed in the face of the inhuman conditions, torture, rape and other abuse refugees and migrants face in Libya’s detention centres, EU governments should urgently set up safe routes out of Libya for them, and ensure that people rescued in the central Mediterranean are not returned to Libya.”