Will Libya Consider Shuttering Migration Detention Centers?

Published July 6th, 2020 - 07:49 GMT
Crowded conditions at the Tariq Al Matar migrant detention centre on the outskirts of the Libyan capital Tripoli. AFP/Mahmud TURKIA
Crowded conditions at the Tariq Al Matar migrant detention centre on the outskirts of the Libyan capital Tripoli. AFP/Mahmud TURKIA

Local aid and rights associations, and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) have called for the closure of migration detention centers in the country on the first anniversary of the bloody attack on a detention center in Tajoura, east of Tripoli.

At least 52 migrants were killed and 87 others were injured in one of the deadliest incidents since the launch of the offensive on Tripoli in April 2019.

Head of the International Organization Cooperation & Emergency Aid (IOCEA) Jamal al-Mabrouk told Asharq Al-Awsat that several detention centers in Libya are carrying out flagrant violations, especially those located in militia-ruled areas.

Activists showed solidarity with Mabrouk and demanded the immediate closure of the centers.

UNSMIL stated that the attack on Tajoura a year ago “underlines the urgent need to close down all migration detention centers in Libya and release migrants and asylum seekers, along with the provision of protection and assistance.”

“This is particularly urgent as Libya grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, with detained migrants and asylum seekers who are vulnerable and exposed, given the poor sanitation, health, and overcrowded conditions in detention centers,” it added.

In its statement last week, UNSMIL said: “Mandatory or indefinite detention in the context of migration is in itself arbitrary. Detention must be justified as reasonable, necessary and proportionate in the light of the circumstances and reassessed as it extends in time.”


According to the mission’s public report on the airstrikes, the Tajoura attack, depending on the precise circumstances, may have amounted to a war crime. In addition, the failure to move detainees from the vicinity of a potential military objective or move military objects that were positioned next to the detention center, likely amounting to a violation of the obligation under international law to take all feasible measures to protect civilians under their control from the effects of potential attacks.

“The UN is concerned that over 5,000 migrants and asylum seekers have been intercepted at sea this year and returned to Libya where they are frequently subjected to arbitrary detention, human rights violations and abuses. We continue to receive reports of unlawful killings, torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, trafficking and sale of migrants in Libya, which depending on the precise facts may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes,” UNSMIL stated.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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