Human rights groups say European Union ministers should make a clear call to Libyan authorities to close their migrant detention centers when the ministers meet in Brussels on July 15.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) among the bodies are urging the EU ministers to make a commitment on behalf of EU states to facilitate the evacuation of detainees to safe places, including outside of Libya and to EU member states.
“Expressions of outrage over dire conditions and dangers to detainees amid fighting in Tripoli ring hollow without urgent life-saving measures to get people out of harm’s way, EU governments should offer concrete support to Libyan authorities to close all migrant detention centers and take immediate action to help evacuate those most vulnerable and at risk,” Associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch Judith Sunderland, said.
Just recently the United Nations high commissioner for human rights appealed to Libya and the international community to ensure all migrants and asylum seekers detained in centers in Tripoli are freed immediately.
However, EU governments have never conditioned their support to Libyan authorities on closing the detention centers and releasing the thousands of people unlawfully detained.
They have instead maintained that EU-funded humanitarian assistance would lead to improved living conditions in the detention centers, despite lack of evidence that it does.
They continue to aid the Libyan Coast Guard to return people intercepted at sea to indefinite detention in Libya.
In a new statement on July 11, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), called for all funding to be conditional on closure of the centers, with a range of proposals to allow immediate release of detainees.
UNHCR estimates that 3,800 people are detained in migrant detention centers near conflict zones, while the total detainee population is estimated at 5,800 as of June 21.
Under Libyan laws undocumented migrant, asylum seeker, or refugee may be detained without an opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of the detention, making the detention arbitrary.
According to IOM, by July 6, the EU-supported Libyan Coast Guard had intercepted and taken back to Libya 3,750 people since the beginning of 2019. In that same period, 4,068 people had reached Italy and Malta, while 426 people died in the central Mediterranean.