Geneva – Libya’s government must investigate the death of a woman in a migrant detention centre and act immediately to address the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in such facilities, particularly in Tripoli, said Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor in a statement.
Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers detained in various facilities in western Libya face inhumane treatment, including denial of legal rights, deliberate medical neglect, physical and psychological torture, extortion, and sexual harassment. Euro-Med Monitor cited a recent video clip showing the dead body of an African migrant inside the Abu Salim detention centre, south of Tripoli. Likely left for days without proper medical attention prior to her death, the woman’s corpse appears emaciated as a result of illness and dehydration.
The clip also shows dozens of women detained in deplorable conditions, as all visible detainees are packed into a small space without adequate equipment or service facilities. Notably, overcrowding increases people’s risk of contracting serious infectious diseases, due to unsanitary conditions. According to testimonies from former detainees at the same centre, migrants are routinely denied proper legal procedures and detained until able to secure enough money to bribe state officials or centre employees—an amount which most often reaches $1,000 USD.
The appalling state of the Abu Salim detention centre exemplifies the prevailing conditions in most detention centres for migrants and asylum seekers in Libya. These centres are typically run by the Libyan Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) of the Ministry of Interior, which receives financial and logistical support from Italy and the European Union.
“Instead of providing detained migrants with the means to live a decent life, detention centre officials work to provide all causes of death for these vulnerable people,” said Michela Pugliese, Asylum and Migration Researcher at Euro-Med Monitor. “They leave them in inhumane conditions to face their demise or otherwise buy their freedom with sums of money most of them cannot secure.”
Pugliese emphasised that migrants and asylum seekers in detention centres feel abandoned by everyone given their ongoing, escalating tragedy, despite UN and international migration organisations’ efforts in Libya. “Some migrant deaths in Libyan detention centres should be treated as murders, with all parties involved held criminally responsible and brought to justice,” she contended.
The Libyan government is primarily responsible for the continued violations of migrants and asylum seekers’ human rights in detention centres, and for monitoring detainee conditions and ensuring that individuals receive due legal process and are not subjected to torture or ill-treatment. The EU and Italy’s continued support for entities that violate the rights of migrants and asylum seekers in Libya makes them complicit in these violations, putting them at odds with their legal and moral obligations.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, should pay a special visit to Libya, hold in-depth discussions with the country’s government about mechanisms to protect migrants and asylum seekers, put an end to all abuses and violations against them, and push for the establishment of permanent and effective mechanisms to specifically monitor migrant detentions centres.
Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor urged the Libyan government to conduct a comprehensive health assessment of all migrant detention centres to ensure they are free of infectious diseases and provide immediate health care and medical assistance to those in need.