UN Libya mission sounds alarm on treatment and arbitrary arrests of refugees

The UN Support Mission in Libya announced Monday that they are alarmed by the recent rise in arbitrary arrests of refugees and asylum seekers in Libya. The mission stated that Libyan authorities have arrested and detained numerous migrants in unsanitary conditions and collectively expelled thousands of others who entered Libya legally.

In early June this year, Libyan authorities deported Egyptian migrants by making them walk across the border. According to local groups which aid migrants in Libya, more than an estimated number of 6,000 migrants–mostly Egyptians–have been held at the Musaid border between Libya and Egypt, where they were deported to their country of origin. Al-Abreen, a non-governmental organization that helps migrants within Libya, also recently posted photos of, what they claimed to be, over 1,000 people detained by Libyan police.

The Security Directorate of Benghazi reported Libya’s raids on asylum seekers but did not provide further details. In addition, the Associated Press reported that a spokesman for Khalifa Hifter, a military commander of eastern Libya, did not respond to phone calls and messages that sought comments. 

In criticizing the actions of the Libyan forces, Human Rights Watch (HRW) deemed their behavior as “absolutely unacceptable” as migrants were forced to walk and run for prolonged durations and were not provided with requisite basic necessities. Hanan Salah, Associate Director of the Middle East and North Africa division of HRW, also stated that “[t]he conditions under which these people are rounded up appear to be incredibly violent and inhumane…the de facto authorities or those who conducted it need to explain themselves.”

As the main transit point for refugees migrating to Europe from the Middle East and Africa, human traffickers smuggle migrants from Libya. Since 2011, smugglers have benefitted from the chaos that Libya plunged into after longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi was killed.