The EU Observer reports hundreds of people over past few months are paying to get detained in UNHCR detention centres in Libya. They are essentially bribing traffickers to get placed in the official detention centres, according to UNHCR Special Envoy to the region, Vincent Cochetel. This is, despite the risk of being taken into slavery or undergoing sexual or physical abuse, many migrants believe this is their best chance of making it to Europe.
As the conflict continues, and expands into Tripoli, darker skinned Africans and those who don’t speak Arabic are said to be at greater risk of abduction, and therefore feel safer in the detention centres. However, being a registered asylum seeker or refugee does not grant one automatic resettlement by the UN, as many believe.
There are currently around 4500 people held in 19 official detention centres in Libya - about half of which are under UNHCR observation. The UNHCR says roughly 80% of those it resettles are from the detention centres, although it seeks to even those numbers to around half.
There are estimated to be close to 50,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers currently in Libya, but countries have made only 2400 pledges for resettlement in 2020 thus far.
The UN estimates around 15,000 migrants tried to get into Europe by boat over 2019 – with 8,848 having been intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libya through the first 11 months of 2019. This controversial cooperation is backed and funded by the EU and Italy.
French officials confirmed they are scrapping plans to supply six coast guard vessels to Libya, after 8 different humanitarian NGO’s filed a lawsuit, criticising Libya’s treatment of migrants in its detention centres. One such group told AFP it hopes this will mark “a turning point in relations between France and Libya in terms of migration policy.”
Frances’ minister of defence sought to provide semi-rigid inflatable boats, however the deal was scuttled due to pressure from the NGO’s, claiming France’s assistance would make it “complicit in the crimes committed against migrants and refugees in Libya.”
The Libyan Coast Guard said it intercepted 205 migrants off the coast of Tripoli this Saturday. The migrants were in 3 different inflatable boats and issued their distress calls some 83-93 kilometres off the coast.
As in similar cases, the migrants, who came from places such as Mali, Ivory Coast and Guinea, were returned to detention centres in Libya, where reports are commonplace of torture, forced labour and even sexual abuse.