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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing note on Libya

28 April 2020

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:

Jeremy Laurence


Location: Geneva

Date: 28 April 2020

We are concerned about the expulsions of at least 1,400 migrants and refugees this year from eastern Libya in violation of Libya’s international human rights law obligations on non-refoulement and collective expulsions, and the risk that more may soon be forcibly deported.

Most of those expelled from Libya have been sent to Sudan, Niger, Chad, and Somalia.

This month, an official spokesperson for the government confirmed that Libyan authorities had “evacuated” 160 Sudanese migrants. OHCHR staff monitoring the situation have noted they were deported without access to asylum or other protection needs, legal assistance, or other critical due process and procedural safeguards. Such practices violate Libya’s international human rights law obligations prohibiting refoulement and collective expulsion.

In recent guidance issued by our Office on COVID-19 and the Human Rights of Migrants we stress that border controls and other measures must comply with the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsions, as well as procedural guarantees, including due process, access to lawyers and translators, and the right to appeal a return decision. We have also recommended that States temporarily suspend carrying out forced returns during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to safeguard the human rights, health and safety of all concerned. All return decisions and procedures should be re-evaluated to ensure they are compatible with migrants’ right to health as well as broader public health strategies.

At the same time, we have serious concerns for the welfare of thousands of migrants held in crowded and unhygienic official detention facilities, and unofficial sites, across the country, where they are at risk of serious human rights violations and abuses, amid the spread of COVID-19. We also note that the detained migrants lack access to information, prevention, and health services. Our concerns are compounded by the fact that many of these detention centres are also located in areas close to ongoing hostilities.

The United Nations has repeatedly said that such detentions are fundamentally arbitrary and has called for the closure of the detention facilities. In the context of COVID-19, release from immigration detention to safe place should be urgently prioritized.

Finally, we repeat calls for all parties to the conflict to accede to the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire, to help create conditions for the delivery of lifesaving aid and bring hope to places that are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.


For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / [email protected] or Jeremy Laurence - + 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected] orLiz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

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