On 21 March 2020, the Rights Group for Migration (RGM) issued a statement calling on authorities to protect migrants and asylum seekers in detention from the risk of infection. They called, among other measures, for the provision of sterilization and hygiene materials to detention centres as well as isolation rooms; the elimination of overcrowding; and the release of children, women, and those with special needs (given that they “pose no threat to public security”).
The UNHCR also called on Libyan authorities to ensure the access and inclusion of all population groups in Libya to health surveillance, preparedness, response plans and activities. The agency called for the orderly release of those held in detention into the community and repeated that detained asylum seekers and refugees are particularly vulnerable and exposed, given poor sanitation facilities, limited health services and overcrowded conditions.
In an email to the Global Detention Project on 3 April, the Rights Group for Migration (RGM) reported that some detention centres had released detainees, but not specifically as a response to Covid-19. The Alsabba (Al Sabaa) detention center in Tripoli released all its detainees, however, according to the Rights Group for Migration “they were released due to the armed clashes near the detention center, more than 300 rockets fell near the Alsabba DC for two consecutive days, and we believe that the responsible authorities want to convert the center to a military barracks.” Also the Abo Saleem (Abu Salim) DC in Tripoli released the Migrants, but this was due to lack of food.
The main issue which facing all migrants in the detention centers, according to the Rights Group for Migration, is “the lack of the basic food, people are dying because of lack of food.” The RGM reports that this is a long-standing issue that pre-dates Covid-19. “The last 3 months DC’s authorities couldn’t supply the food to the detained migrants, this include the detained children and the pregnant women.” More than 120 Migrants in Suqu ElKhamees DC (Al Khoms City), are suffering from lack of food ,and the authorities refuse to release them until now. Not only this, the new arrested migrants are detained with the old immigrants without making any medical tests for them or distributing protection tools for them or to the others.”
According to unverified information on Twitter, between 26 and 29 March, facilities at the Al-Nasr Detention Centre in Al-Zawiya, Zlitan Detention Centre, Dahr al Jabal Detention Centre, and Sabha Detention Centre, were cleaned and disinfected, and some detainees received new mattresses, blankets, and cleaning products. This was reportedly conducted with assistance from the IOM.
On 28 March 2020, the government released 466 prisoners from the country’s penitentiaries. The prisoners released included pretrial detainees pending investigation and those who meet the rules for conditional release. The Ministry of Justice also stated that it planned to release more prisoners in the future, including those who have served more than half of their sentences, the elderly and those with special health considerations.
- Migrant Rescue Watch, Twitter feed, 26-29 March 2020, https://twitter.com/rgowans/status/1244309963666870272; https://twitter.com/rgowans/status/1244309963666870272; https://twitter.com/rgowans/status/1243583088724250628; https://twitter.com/rgowans/status/1243461390939099136
- Rights Group for Migration, “Statement of the Rights Group for Migration on the Situation of Migrants and Asylum Seekers in Libya in the Light of the Spread of the New Coronavirus in the World and Neighbouring Countries,” 21 March 2020, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Libya-Rights-Group-for-Migration-Statement.pdf
- UNHCR, “Libya: Humanitarian Crisis Worsening amid Deepening Conflict and Covid-19 Threat”, 3 April 2020, www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2020/4/5e86f2cc4/libya-humanitarian-crisis-worsening-amid-deepening-conflict-covid-19-threat.html
- Global Detention Project, Immigration Detention in Libya, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/africa/libya
- CGTN Africa, “Libya Releases 466 Prisoners over Covid-19 Fears”, 28 March 2020, https://africa.cgtn.com/2020/03/28/libya-releases-466-prisoners-over-covid-19-fears/