Refugees locked up for two years in Libya call for evacuation.

Refugees and asylum seekers who have been locked up in a remote Libyan detention centre for two years, after trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe, are calling to be released or transferred, to be visited by UN representatives, and to be considered for evacuation to a safe country.

Hundreds of refugees were bused 180km southwest to Zintan detention centre, in the Nafusa mountains, after fighting broke out in the Libyan capital Tripoli in September 2018.

Over the following year, at least 23 of them died – including one Gambian child and his father, and a Somali teenage girl – due to sickness, poor conditions and medical neglect. Two more died this year: one of apparent sunstroke, and another after a fire broke out.

The Irish Times is in contact with several detainees in Zintan. They described escaping war or dictatorships in Sudan and Eritrea, before trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2017 and 2018. Some said they witnessed others drown, and are still suffering the effects of trauma.

They added they were being given pasta twice a day, with oil and salt, but nothing else. Sometimes, they say, they have the option of paying guards to buy them other types of food, but there is a steep mark-up.

Only select detainees are allowed outside to walk in an enclosed compound, and others stay locked up in indoor halls or cells, they say.

Last year, The Irish Times published details of a leaked UN report that said that up to 80 per cent of the hundreds of detainees in Zintan were thought to have contracted tuberculosis. At the time, an aid official with knowledge of the situation, said there had been “huge negligence”.

Caroline Gluck, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, said her organisation has not had access to Zintan detention centre since February.

“UNHCR has variable access to official government-run detention centres, due to security and access restrictions,” she said. “Access is not systematic and is contingent upon prior authorisation.”

On hold

Evacuations from Libya were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Gluck said, but even if they begin again, refugees in Zintan detention centre cannot be chosen without staff visiting.

“Despite repeated calls for their release by UN agencies, especially in the light of Covid-19 pandemic prevention measures, hundreds of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants continue to endure arbitrary and indefinite detention in dire living conditions in Libya,” she said.

Over the past three years, tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have been caught trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea and imprisoned, without charge or trial, in detention centres associated with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.

The Libyan coastguard, which carries out interceptions, is trained, equipped and supported by the European Union, which has spent close to €100 million through its Trust Fund for Africa.

In July, Pope Francis compared Libya’s migrant detention centres to concentration camps.

“You cannot imagine the hell that people live there in those lagers of detention,” he said. “All these people had was hope as they were crossing the sea.”

Related news

US election: Trump travels to Florida as he steps up campaigning.

‘The longer Donald Trump is president, the more reckless he gets,’ Biden tells Delaware

How would a Biden presidency affect Ireland – and the world?.

Hopes of a return to international co-operation under Biden may be premature

1 2

Sudan to normalise ties with Israel in move dubbed by Palestinians as ‘a stab in the back’.

Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu thanks Donald Trump for helping broker deal

Pompeo steps up diplomatic efforts to end Nagorno-Karabakh fighting.

Azerbaijan and Armenian forces clash as prospects of peace settlement ‘very remote’

Marcus Rashford praised after businesses rally to offer free school meals.

Manchester United striker hailed a ‘hero’ after bid to provide free meals to children

Libya’s main warring factions sign permanent ceasefire.

Agreement reached between two sides amid international and local scepticism

‘It was barbaric’: Nigeria reels from brutality of protest crackdown.

Demonstrators say assault seemed premeditated and allege army involvement

1 4

Warsaw braced for protests after anti-abortion ruling.

Abortions now legal only in cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother’s health

Warsaw braced for further protests after anti-abortion ruling.

Abortions now legal only in cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother’s health

Angela Merkel’s party in a tizzy as it struggles to appoint a new leader.

Coronavirus has hobbled the CDU’s long-running efforts to reach a decision

By continuing to browse World News (UAZMI), you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and agree to the use of cookies