Shocking as the precise circumstances are behind the deaths of at least 44 people in an airstrike that hit a detention centre in Tajoura in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, it is a predictable incident.
Even as footage circulated online claiming to show blood and body parts mixed with rubble and migrants’ belongings from the air raid blamed on the forces of the warlord Khalifa Haftar, it emerged the detainees had been housed in a hangar next to a weapons store – the likely target of the strike.
EU officials have long been aware of the risks in Libya, where migrants have faced atrocious mistreatment at the hands of militias, while Europe’s governments have prevented the sailing of migrant boats to Italy and elsewhere.
Critics point to the EU’s decision to withdraw the naval assets involved in Operation Sophia, which provided a vital role in saving lives at sea, saying this has led to thousands more people being detained or trapped in facilities such as the one in Tajoura.
In recent months, since Haftar and his self-styled National Liberation Forces launched their assault on the UN-backed government of Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli, alarm bells over the safety of migrants had only grown louder. About 3,000 are housed in locations close to the fighting where migrants have already been killed.
In the case of the Tajoura facility, the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, noted it had warned less than two months ago that anyone inside the detention centre was at risk of being caught in the fighting around Tripoli.
Amnesty had also warned of the risk of detaining migrants close to a military site after an airstrike hit a military vehicle about 100 metres from the detention centre on 7 May.