Two UN agencies on Wednesday strongly condemned an overnight air attack that hit a detention center east of Tripoli leaving scores of migrants and refugees dead and dozens injured.
“The appalling toll in injuries and lives from Tuesday night’s attack east of Tripoli at the Tajoura Detention Center speaks to the deep concerns expressed repeatedly by the International Organisation for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency over the safety of people in detention centers,’’ the IOM and UNHCR said in a joint statement here.
Early reports had quoted local health officials as saying over 40 people were killed in the strike, but the UN agencies did not specify numbers for those believed dead or injured.
The IOM and UNHCR said the latest violence highlights the danger both UN agencies have warned about over returning migrants and refugees to Libya after their interception or rescue on the Mediterranean Sea.
“Our two organisations strongly condemn this and any attack on civilian life. We also call for an immediate end to the detention of migrants and refugees,’’ they said.
They called for a guarantee of the protection of refugees and migrants in Libya, noting that such an attack deserves more than condemnation.
UNHCR and IOM said they believe a full and independent investigation is required to determine how this happened, who was responsible, and to bring those individuals to account.
They noted that coordinates of such centers in Tripoli are well known to combatants, who also know those detained at Tajoura are civilians.
Tajoura held no fewer than 600 migrants and refugees including women and children.
“Including those victims at Tajoura, some 3,300 migrants and refugees remain arbitrarily detained inside and around Tripoli in conditions that can only be described as inhumane,’’ the statement said.
Moreover, migrants and refugees face increasing risks as clashes intensify nearby, said the IOM and UNHCR, calling for closure of the detention centers.
The ongoing conflict in the Libyan capital has forced nearly 100,000 Libyans to flee their homes, said the UN agencies.
UNHCR with partners that include IOM has relocated more than 1,500 refugees from detention centers near combat to safer areas.
In 2019, IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return operations have assisted in the departure of more than 5,000 vulnerable individuals returning to 30 countries of origin in Africa and Asia.
Libya has been suffering from escalating violence and political instability since the fall of the late leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.