UN criticises ‘unacceptable’ migrant crisis in Libya after roundup

More than 120 Gambians were flown home, but many more refugees are camped outside UN hub in Tripoli

Libya has become a key transit route for African and Middle Eastern migrants looking to reach Europe. AP

The UN pushed Libya to tackle the “dire situation" of refugees and asylum seekers in the country on Friday, amid an international outcry over sweeping raids and detentions that left several people dead.

Vincent Cochetel, regional director for the UN refugee agency, decried “unacceptable” conditions for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers after a mass roundup and detention campaign by authorities in the capital of Tripoli.

Rocked by a decade of war, Libya has become a key transit route for African and Middle Eastern migrants looking to reach Europe. Many end up stranded in Libya and face grave abuses, human trafficking and deadly sea crossings.

“We have witnessed a sharp deterioration in the situation facing vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees in Tripoli,” Mr Cochetel said.

“The Libyan authorities must come up with a proper plan that respects their rights and identifies durable solutions."

He highlighted the “precarious” situation of some 3,000 people who had escaped the roundup, many of whom saw their homes demolished by authorities and who are now sheltering at a UN-run centre in Tripoli, hoping for evacuation flights.

“Many have been left homeless and lost all their belongings as a result of the security operation and are now sleeping in the cold and in a very unsafe environment,” said Mr Cochetel.

“This is utterly unacceptable.”

More than 120 stranded Gambian migrants were repatriated to their homeland in the first such evacuation flight from Libya in months, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration said in a tweet on Friday.

However, evacuation flights and resettlement programmes would “only benefit a limited number of people” and Libyan authorities need a plan for the many thousands of refugees and migrants in the country, said Mr Cochetel.

The resumption of evacuation flights came as Tripoli hosted an international conference to seek support for stability in Libya and to push for national elections to go ahead as planned in December.

The UN's deputy political chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, used the meeting to urge authorities to stick with the December 24 date, to speed up repatriations and to release migrants in detention.

Libyan authorities faced international outcry this month after carrying out sweeping raids described by aid group Doctors Without Borders as “violent mass arrests” that left several people dead.

The country spiralled into chaos after the Nato-backed 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Libya is largely governed by local militias, many of which profit from human trafficking.

Updated: October 22nd 2021, 4:09 PM