Migrants flee Tripoli detention centre amid fighting


Hundreds of African migrants escaped from a detention centre in Tripoli as fighting between rival groups raged nearby, an aid official said, though the Libyan government department set up to combat illegal migration denied the report.

A video posted on social media purportedly showed hundreds of Africans, some carrying plastic bags, walking in a line away from the detention centre. It is on the road to the former Tripoli International Airport, destroyed in a battle between rival militias in 2014.

Libya is a major departure point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, mainly from other parts of Africa.

The aid official, who works for an international organisation, said as many as 1,800 migrants might have escaped the facility on Tuesday. It was unclear where they had gone.

If confirmed, this would mean almost a quarter of Libya’s jailed migrants, mostly Africans, are on the run. Most were jailed after the Libyan coast guard intercepted makeshift boats bound for Italy.

Fighting between rival Libyan groups lasting for more than a week spread from the airport, south of Tripoli, towards the city.

Tripoli is formally controlled by the internationally recognised Government of National Accord, but armed groups working with it act with autonomy. Eastern Libya is controlled by a rival administration.

Last Thursday UN agencies and authorities relocated hundreds of migrants from government-run detention centres in southern Tripoli to safer locations.

In a further sign of chaos, some 400 prisoners escaped on Sunday from a jail in southern Tripoli, forcing open doors as guards retreated.

The United Nations mission called for a meeting to discuss the deteriorating security situation, but officials were not available to confirm it was going ahead.

The number of illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe has dropped sharply since Italy provided the Libyan coastguard with extra boats and brokered deals with local groups in a smuggler hub last year.