Increasing violence towards refugees and migrants held in Libyan detention centres has forced Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to suspend its operations at two facilities, the medical charity said.
MSF said its teams witnessed guards beating detainees, including those seeking treatment from MSF doctors. It said its doctors treated patients suffering from fractures, bruises, cuts and blunt trauma from beatings.
“This is not an easy decision to make, as it means we won’t be present in detention centres where we know people are suffering on a daily basis,” said MSF head of mission in Libya, Beatrice Lau. “However, the persistent pattern of violent incidents and serious harm to refugees and migrants, as well as the risk to the safety of our staff, has reached a level that we are no longer able to accept. Until the violence stops, and conditions improve, MSF can no longer provide humanitarian and medical care in these facilities.”
MSF said it had received reports of detainees being injured by automatic fire at the Abu Salim centre on 13 June but was not given access for a week afterwards. In April, it reported that one migrant was killed and two were injured when shots were fired into cells after rising tensions between detainees and guards.
Detention centres in Libya have been the repeated focus of allegations of abuse and violence by human rights organisations and charities. The UN has condemned the EU-backed system of using the Libyan coastguard to intercept migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean and return them to detention centres in Libya, which it deems unsafe. In March the UN said it was concerned by conditions in the centres, with thousands of people “detained in dire conditions with limited access to basic services and overcrowding”.
So far this year 14,000 people have been intercepted and returned to Libya, exceeding the total number in 2020.
Vincent Cochetel, the UN’s envoy for migrant crossings in the Mediterranean, tweeted: “End arbitrary detention in Libya starting now, with all women and children & do not claim it is not possible.”