The alleged Libya National Army (LNA) airstrike on 2 July against a migrant detention facility in Tajoura that left at least 50 people killed and close to a hundred injured represents a dire illustration of the risk faced by migrants and asylum seekers amid the ongoing Libyan armed conflict. Indeed, according to many accounts by multiple independent sources, the detention facility, 16 kilometres east of Tripoli, was located adjacent to a military compound and only 90 meters from a weapons storage used by militias. Moreover, these same sources indicate that United Nations agencies had long warned Government of National Accord (GNA) affiliates not to keep weapons next to these facilities.
According to additional sources, the storage of weapons and other military supplies at detention centres represents a common strategy used by GNA-affiliated militias who run these camps. These weapons include anti-aircraft ammunition & missile systems among other items. Likewise, many migrants under the condition of anonymity have stated that they have been forced to take part in hostilities, having been forced to clean weapons among other tasks, which adds to the already concerning allegations regarding abuses and torture within these detention facilities. Together, these developments illustrate the gross human rights violations taking place in Libya by all the sides involved in the conflict. In fact, many international organisations have framed the LNA airstrike as a war crime, while also condemning the GNA over its lax oversight of its affiliated militias.
Under these conditions, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have called for the release of the migrants held in camps and their absorption into host communities while their status is been processed. As of June 2019, there are 5,378 people held in detention centres across Libya, and 4,148 of those refugees are in the security danger zone in Tripoli or in the north-west. As such, a large portion of the migrants currently being held in Libya are exposed not only to abuses but also to be targets amid the fighting. During the advance of LNA-affiliated militias in western Libya, migrants have stated how militiamen have indiscriminately shot at them during their advance on GNA positions.
Even though the remaining migrants at Tajoura were released, how many others might be trapped at facilities that are in close proximity to fighting or even used as weapons storage? Taking precedent into consideration, particularly the increase of LNA airstrikes against the capital, it is hard not to raise the question of how many refugees, who are being held with the blessing of the European Union, are actually at imminent risk of death amid the ongoing LNA campaign against Tripoli?