Libya considers closing immigrant reception centers

REUTERS Hundreds of immigrants gathered at a detention center in Libya

Interior Minister of Libya’s UN-backed government Fat’hi Bashagha on Thursday said the government is considering closing all reception centers of illegal immigrants in the country for security reasons, following a deadly attack on a reception center east of Tripoli.

The minister made his remarks during a meeting with Maria do Valle Ribeiro, deputy special representative of the UN secretary-general to Libya.

“Targeting reception centers with F-16 fighter jets and not providing air cover to protect illegal immigrants in shelters is outside the capacity of the government of national accord. Therefore, the government is currently considering closing reception centers and releasing all illegal immigrants to save their lives,” Bashagha said.

A migrant picks up her belongings from among rubble at a detention centre for mainly African migrants that was hit by an airstrike in the Tajoura

On Tuesday, an immigrant reception center in eastern Tripoli was attacked, killing and injuring dozens of people.

The government accused the rival eastern-based army of carrying out the attack, which the army strongly denied and in return accused the government of it.

The UN Higher Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) demanded closing the immigration reception centers in Libya.

“Including those victims at Tajoura, some 3,300 migrants and refugees remain arbitrarily detained inside and around Tripoli in conditions that can only be described as inhumane. Moreover, migrants and refugees face increasing risks as clashes intensify nearby. These centers must be closed,” the IOM and the UNHCR said in a joint statement.

The eastern-based army has been leading a military campaign to take over the capital from the government since early April, which killed and injured hundreds of people.

Libya is a preferred point of departure for thousands of migrants wanting to cross the Mediterranean towards European shores.

Migrant shelters in Libya are crowded with thousands of migrants who have been rescued at sea or arrested by Libyan security services.

Libya has been suffering from escalating violence and political instability ever since the fall of the late leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.