Two Eritrean refugees were reportedly killed in Tripoli, just days after leaving a crowded UN “Gathering and Departure Facility” (GDF). The deaths have led to growing concerns on the state of these facilities and for the safety of refugees in Libya.
According to some media reports, the UN pressed the two to depart the facility to make room for more “vulnerable” refugees, however, responding to the Guardian, the UN agency in charge of the facility denied these reports.
The GDF was set up in 2018 as an “alternative to detention” but quickly became overcrowded. Newcomers are often offered money and encouraged to return to their homes or find alternative solutions. In practice, many use the money to rent apartments in Tripoli and get on smuggling ships to Europe. The UNHCR has limited options to evacuate and resettle refugees and asylum seekers.
The two men were part of a group of dozens reportedly forced out of the GDF 10 days prior. However, the UNHCR said the two left voluntarily and did not accept cash, rather that the centre “operated as an open centre where people have freedom of movement and can leave at any time”. They were “deeply saddened” by the “incident (which) appears to have been a robbery attempt” where the two were residing. In comparison, the detention centres, which are overseen by the GNA or related militias, are not open and often run by officials connected to human traffickers.
The UN has also been accused of trying to “starve out” refugees from the GDFs, allegations backed by internal documents and aid workers familiar with the situation, who say the UN is “starving (the) population inside…trying to starve them to motivate them to leave.” The UNHCR admitted it encouraged people to leave but denied any wrongdoing or using such tactics.
The deaths come in addition to multiple reports of refugees and migrants being killed in Tripoli in recent years.