There have been numerous recent reports of mass raids targeting migrants and asylum seekers across Libya, resulting in thousands of people being detained in western Libya during the first week of October. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 5,152 migrants were detained in the raids, which were described by Libyan authorities as part of a campaign against undocumented migration and drug trafficking. However, sources reported that the Libyan Interior Ministry, which oversaw the raids, made no mention of any traffickers or smugglers being arrested. Detained migrants were sent to the Collection and Return Centre in Tripoli, according to police, before being sent to detention centres in Tripoli and surrounding towns.
A UN humanitarian coordinator in Libya reported severe abuses committed by security forces during the raids, saying that “unarmed migrants were harassed in their homes, beaten and shot” and that one young migrant had been killed. Five other migrants sustained gunshot wounds, two of whom were in serious condition in intensive care. A refugee told Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF): “armed and masked security men raided our house where I was living. … They tied our hands behind our backs and dragged us out of the house. They hit me on the head with the butt of a gun and I suffered serious injuries.”
On 6 October 2021, MSF stated that following the mass arrests, the number of people being held in detention centres increased more than threefold. MSF visited two centres in the capital where people arrested in the recent raids are being held: Shara Zawiya and Al-Mabani (Ghout Sha’al) detention centres. According to MSF, the Shara Zawiya centre which usually accommodates 200-250 people, there were more than 550 women and children crammed into the cells with around 120 people sharing one toilet and buckets filled with urine lined up near the doors of cells. At the Al-Mabani detention centre, MSF teams witnessed hangars and cells so overcrowded that the men held inside were forced to stand. Women and children were being held in the open air within the facility, without any shade or shelter. Detained men told MSF that they had not eaten for three days, while several women stated that they had only received a piece of bread and a triangle of processed cheese once a day. MSF treated 161 patients in two days in the facilities, including three for violence-related injuries. 21 patients were transferred for specialist medical care in clinics supported by MSF in Tripoli.
MSF has only recently resumed medical activities in the Shara Zawiya, Al-Mabani and Abu Salim detention centres in Tripoli, following three months of suspension. An MSF operations manager said: “Instead of increasing the number of people held in detention centres, efforts should be made to put an end to arbitrary detention and close these dangerous and uninhabitable facilities. More than ever before, migrants and refugees are living in danger and are trapped in Libya with very limited options for a way out – as humanitarian flights have been unjustifiably suspended for the second time this year.”
The IOM reported on 11 October 2021 that at least six migrants had been killed after guards opened fire at an overcrowded detention facility in Tripoli. The head of the Libyan mission of the IOM said he was unsure what exactly led to the shooting but that it was “related to the overcrowding and the terrible, very tense situation” at the facility. According to Infomigrants, several other migrants were wounded and many more escaped the facility.
- United Nations Support Mission in Libya, “Statement of the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Georgette Gagnon: UN Extremely Concerned About Reports of Killings and Excessive use of Force against Migrants and Asylum Seekers in Gargaresh, Tripoli,” 2 October 2021, https://unsmil.unmissions.org/statement-united-nations-assistant-secretary-general-resident-and-humanitarian-coordinator-libya
- Infomigrants, “Thousands of Migrants Rounded in Libya,” 4 October 2021, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/35495/thousands-of-migrants-rounded-up-in-libya
- Infomigrants, “Numbers in Libyan Detention Centre Triple in Five Days, say MSF,” 7 October 2021, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/35596/numbers-in-libyan-detention-center-triple-in-five-days-say-msf
- Deutsche Welle, “Libya: Migrants Shot Dead at Detention Centre,” Infomigrants, 11 October 2021, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/35623/libya-migrants-shot-dead-at-detention-center
- UNHCR Libya, “Twitter,” 3 October 2021, https://twitter.com/UNHCRLibya/status/1444720646299262979
- IOM, “Libya Newsletter,” August 2021, https://libya.iom.int/sites/libya/files/news/IOM%20Libya%20Monthly%20Newsletter%20-%20August%202021.pdf
- Sara Creta, “Twitter,” 2 October 2021, https://twitter.com/saracreta/status/1444268399052402689
- Médecins Sans Frontières, “Thousands Beaten Up , Detained Following Days of Mass Arrests in Tripoli,” 6 October 2021, https://www.msf.org/thousands-detained-and-people-without-medical-care-after-days-arrests-libya
- Migrants Sitting on the Street After Being Rounded Up by Security Forces (Ayman Al-Sahili, Reuters, “Libya: Migrants Shot Dead at Detention Centre,” 9 October 2021, https://www.dw.com/en/libya-migrants-shot-dead-at-detention-center/a-59455474)