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Guards shoot dead six migrants at Libya detention centre

Saturday October 9, 2021

Migrants are seen after they were detained by Libyan security forces in Tripoli, Libya October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Ayman Al-Sahili

Guards shot dead six migrants at an overcrowded Tripoli detention facility on Friday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said, the latest violence against migrants following mass arrests in recent days.

“Shooting broke out and six migrants were killed in total. They were shot by the guards,” the UN agency’s Libya chief Federico Soda told AFP.

“We don’t know what triggered the incident today but it is related to overcrowding and the terrible, very tense situation” at the Al-Mabani facility in the capital, he said.

He added that at least 20 other migrants were wounded and that many more had escaped in the chaos.

The killings came a week after sweeping raids in Tripoli, mostly targeting irregular migrants, left at least one person dead and 15 wounded, according to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

Doctors without Borders (MSF) said 5,000 migrants and refugees had been swept up in “violent mass arrests”, tripling the numbers detained in the city in just five days.

Libyan authorities had said the wave of detentions last Friday and Saturday were part of anti-drug raids on houses and makeshift shelters in Gargaresh, a poor suburb of Tripoli.

Soda said the heavily guarded Al-Mabani centre, which has a capacity of 1,000, had by Friday been housing 3,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, around a third of them in the grounds outside the building.

Guards had fired into the air to control previous incidents during the week, he said.

“Their detention is arbitrary and indiscriminate,” he said.

“There are people there who have legal documents but they are stuck in the country.”

Videos posted on social media, some filmed from cars, appeared to show hundreds of people climbing over a metal fence and running across the road.

One showed people running through the streets chanting “freedom! freedom!” in English. In another, a migrant said those fleeing were from “Somalia, Sudan, Egypt” and other countries.

AFP was unable to immediately verify the footage.

The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR had said earlier Friday that it was “increasingly alarmed about the humanitarian situation for asylum seekers and refugees in Libya”.

“Following a large-scale security operation by the Libyan authorities in the past week, arrests and raids have been taking place in many parts of Tripoli, targeting areas where asylum seekers and migrants are living,” it said.

Amnesty International said on Friday that Libyan forces had used “unlawful lethal force” in the round-up.

“Libyan forces have a harrowing record of subjecting refugees and migrants to unimaginable horrors with impunity,” said Diana Eltahawy, the group’s regional deputy director.

Particularly since Libya collapsed into violence following its 2011 revolution, it has become a key departure point for tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, hoping to reach Europe.


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