They tell us they feel helpless and isolated after months and often years stranded in detention. Their only hope is to see their asylum requests processed – they must get out.CHRISTINE NIVET, MSF PROJECT COORDINATOR.
“Our psychologist reports a very high level of desperation. People are in shock, numb by the repeated trauma with no end in sight,” said Christine Nivet, MSF project coordinator. “The fire and the resulting tragic death of a young man are adding up to a cycle of dreadful abuse and traumatic events that our patients have faced in Libya.”
“They tell us they feel helpless and isolated after months and often years stranded in detention,” Nivet said. “Their only hope is to see their asylum requests processed – they must get out.”
People who have escaped danger, embarked on dangerous journeys
Most people currently arbitrarily detained in Dhar El-Jebel detention centre are Eritrean and Somali asylum seekers registered with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. They fled their home countries to seek safety and asylum and cannot return. They have been through horrific experiences during their perilous journey, especially in Libya.
Some were kidnapped by human traffickers who tortured them to extort money from them and their relatives. Others attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach safety in Europe and were brought back by the EU-supported Libyan coastguard and taken to detention centres, mainly in Tripoli. After fighting between militias broke out in the capital in August 2018, many of them were moved from detention centres in Tripoli to facilities in the Nafusa Mountains, further from the frontline but out of sight, in desperate conditions and with virtually no assistance.
Stuck in detention while Europe continues to keep migrants at bay
Despite the severe escalation of the conflict in Libya, the European Union support to the Libyan coast guard continues unabated in order to intercept people fleeing by sea and return them to a country at war where they face well-known and life-threatening violence.
“People in search of safety find themselves increasingly stuck in Libya. Some of our patients in Dhar El-Jebel detention centre have been detained for three years,” said Nivet. “What we can do as medics to alleviate their suffering is very limited as our patients remain in the same protracted harmful situation, with their international protection needs unanswered. Evacuations and resettlements of refugees and asylum seekers from Libya must be immediately scaled up.”
MSF calls for the end of arbitrary detention of migrants and refugees in Libya. Protection mechanisms including shelters for the most vulnerable where they can be assured of security and assistance must be set up as a matter of urgency, while their evacuation can be organised. This can only work if Europe stops sending back those who escape by sea and if safe countries provide more places to welcome survivors.