UNHCR has reported that more than 2,300 remain confined in centres operated by the UN-backed Government of National Accord. Conditions remain a critical concern, with many detainees facing violence and abuse, food shortages, lack of sanitary facilities, and severe overcrowding. Reportedly, the agency has called for an “orderly release” for all those detained and for alternatives to detention for persons intercepted at sea.
However, many thousands more remain detained in “unofficial” facilities. Operated by militia groups, the conditions faced by those confined in such sites are of even greater concern. Reportedly, the number of such sites have “mushroomed” in the wake of the Libyan government’s decision to shutter several detention facilities in late 2019. According to the IOM, more than 3,000 persons apprehended by the Libyan coastguard have disappeared into unofficial facilities or have remained unaccounted for since the start of 2020.
Since the first Covid-19 case was detected and confirmed in Libya on 25 March, more than 3,100 migrants and refugees have been intercepted at sea and returned to the country. However, none of those returned have been tested for the virus. The country’s National Centre for Disease Control is responsible for Covid-19 testing, but has only been present at a “handful of disembarkations” since March. Across much of the rest of the country, testing is almost entirely unavailable. NGOs including the International Rescue Committee, have flagged this and urged immediate action. “Although we try to carry out basic temperature checks, sometimes even this simple step is not allowed. The lack of something so basic – let alone the ability to carry out proper testing – is a real cause for concern because it means there is a risk that the disease is being spread in the detention centres and in communities, and is going undetected.”
- Global Detention Project, “Immigration Detention in Libya – 2018 Update,” August 2018, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/africa/libya
- R. Abdulrahim, “Migrants in Libya Suffer Torture, Abuse in Off-the-Grid Detention, Aid Groups Say,” 13 July 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/aid-groups-report-abuse-torture-in-libyas-off-the-grid-detention-centers-11594649292?mod=itp_wsj&yptr=yahoo
- Infomigrants, “Libya: UNHCR Worried for Migrants in Detention Centers,” 10 July 2020, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/25936/libya-unhcr-worried-for-migrants-in-detention-centers
- International Rescue Committee, “Libya: Lack of COVID-19 Tests When Boats Return Risks Surge in Cases, Warns IRC,” 10 July 2020, https://reliefweb.int/report/libya/libya-lack-covid-19-tests-when-boats-return-risks-surge-cases-warns-irc
- Libyan Police Forces Inspecting Some 250 Detained Migrants at the Abu Salim Detention Centre in Gasr Garabulli, (EPA, “Libya: UNHCR Worried for Migrants in Detention Centres,” InfoMigrants, 10 July 2020, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/25936/libya-unhcr-worried-for-migrants-in-detention-centers)