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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing note on Libya

07 June 2019

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Date: 7 June 2019
Location:  Geneva
Subject: (1) Libya

(1) Libya

We are deeply concerned about the ghastly conditions in which migrants and refugees are being held in detention in Libya – with some 22 having died of tuberculosis and other illnesses in the Zintan detention facility since September 2018 – as well as ongoing reports of disappearances and human trafficking after people were intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard.

So far this year, a total of more than 2,300 people have been picked up off the coast of Libya and put in detention facilities. And the Libyan Coast Guard reports that since 30 April, it has delivered hundreds of people to a facility in Al-Khoms, which is under the oversight of the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM). This includes 203 people who were delivered there on 23 May. However, the Al-Khoms facility reports that there are currently only 30 migrants present. This is particularly worrying given reports that migrants are being sold for forced labour or to smugglers promising transit to Europe. There are also reports that some women have been sold for sexual exploitation. We have long documented the kinds of horrific abuses to which migrants and refugees are subjected in Libya.

We urge the Government of National Accord to immediately launch an independent investigation to locate these missing people. The Libyan Coast Guard and the DCIM must ensure that they are accountable for every person in detention, and that their human rights are respected. We remind the Government that when a person dies in custody, there is a presumption of State responsibility. Libya has a heightened duty of care to protect the lives of individuals deprived of liberty, including providing them with the necessary medical care.

During a recent visit to the Zintan Detention Centre, where 654 refugees and migrants are held, we found them severely malnourished, lacking water, locked in overcrowded warehouses reeking with the smell of rubbish and waste from overflowing latrines. Those held in the facilities reportedly receive only one meal of 200 grams of plain pasta per day. Some 432 Eritreans detained in the facility – 132 of them children – reportedly receive only half of this amount. More than 60 people suffering from tuberculosis are locked in a separate isolation hangar. Thirty others have been moved to the Gharyan Detention Centre, south of Tripoli, very close to the current frontline. They have reportedly been sent there to die because there are no burial facilities for Christians in Zintan.

The conditions at Zintan Detention Centre amount to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and may also amount to torture.

Some 3,400 migrants and refugees remain detained in Tripoli, according to UN figures. We appeal to the authorities in Libya and the international community to ensure that migrants and refugees held in such detention facilities are immediately released, that evacuation, resettlement and voluntary humanitarian return options urgently expanded, and alternatives to detention are developed.


For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]or Ravina Shamdasani - 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

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