Bombed Tajoura migrant centre being emptied

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A migrant detention centre in Tripoli, hit by an air strike, is being gradually emptied following a decision by Libyan authorities to release inmates, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

The July 3 air strike on Tajoura detention centre killed 53 and injured 130, according to the World Health Organisation.

The United Nations said the strike on the centre, holding an estimated 350 people this week, could amount to a war crime.

The strike happened as eastern forces under Khalifa Haftar keep up a ground and aerial offensive to wrest control of Tripoli from the UN-backed government. The two sides blame each other for the attack.

It left frightened migrants and refugees desperate to leave the centre in an eastern suburb of the capital. The United Nations called for migrants to evacuated.

“At some point yesterday, a decision was taken by authorities to release detainees. They were given an option, they were not compelled,” UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley said.

In all, about 260 migrants left and walked to a UNHCR departure facility where they stayed overnight with emergency assistance. They are expected to go to a community day centre where they will receive food, water and medical care, he said.

Fifty-five migrants deemed most vulnerable, many women and unaccompanied children, stayed in the camp awaiting transfer to UNHCR’s departure facility in Tripoli, security conditions permitting, he said. They are slated to be evacuated to a safe country.

The UNHCR departure centre in Tripoli and a transit centre in Niger are full, Yaxley said, adding: “We rely on states to come forward with evacuation places to get people out”.

Several dozen migrants and refugees chose to stay for now following the sudden decision by authorities, but are free to go, he said.