Conditions of displaced migrants in Libya “disastrous”

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Thousands of migrants displaced by fighting on Libya’s north-western coast are in urgent need of medical help, the head of a detention centre in Gharyan said, describing their situation as “tragic”.

Some 5,800 migrants arrived at the centre since fighting broke out last month in Sabratha, previously a launch pad for crossings to Italy. About 2,000 people have been sent on from Gharyan to other centres in Tripoli.
“The situation is very tragic…disastrous. There’s a lack of support,” said Abdulhameed Muftah, who runs Al-Hamra dentition centre in Gharyan, south of Tripoli.

The clashes in Sabratha ended with withdrawal of an armed group who had began blocking migrant departures from Sabratha under pressure from Italy. Sabratha was previously the major smuggling hub for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

UN agencies have been struggling to provide support for thousands of mainly sub-Saharan African migrants stranded after fighting.

Many are at centres such as the one in Gharyan, nominally controlled by the UN-backed government but notorious for abuse and poor conditions. Humanitarian workers have limited access.

Al-Hamra consists of about a dozen hangars, each meant to hold up to 150 people.

About 70% of migrants brought there need medical attention and were not receiving it, Muftah said. One migrant clinging to a hangar door called out as a reporter passed, saying “Please. We’re dying, we’re dying”.

Muftah said there were many children and some pregnant women in the centre, several of who had given birth since arriving.
“We appeal to all international organisations and the Libyan state to consider the humanitarian condition of these migrants,” he said.

The condition of migrants was also raised with Libyan authorities by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra‘ad Al Hussein, who visited Libya this week.
“I call on government to establish alternatives to detention in Libya, to halt the practise of arbitrary detention and to ensure accountability for abuses perpetrated against migrants in detention centres,” he said in a statement.

He called for human rights monitors to be given access to detention centres where thousands of Libyans have been held for years without judicial process, citing “horrific reports” emerging from some of them.