65% of migrants and refugees detained in Libya, need protection – UN

UNICEF/UN052682/Romenzi

An estimate of 3,700 persons detained at official facilities in Libya required international protection. The United Nations estimated that 5,300 persons who were migrants and refugees are currently detained in the country. The number does not include people detained by armed groups.

In a recently published report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), the report documented the political, security and economic-related developments on Libya for 2018, after the report issued on 24 August.

The report by Guterres also delved into the plight of migrants and refugees in Libya that continue to be “vulnerable” as the humanitarian situation remained “fragile”. Migrants and refugees in Libya continue to face torture which includes sexual violence, abduction for ransom, extortion, forced labour and unlawful killings. The report also refers to the deprivation of liberty and arbitrary detention in official and unofficial places of detention.

The number of migrants and refugees in Libya that were detained increased during the reporting period. The increase in number was attributed to more interceptions at sea and the closure of sea routes to migrants which was preventing their departure.

The violence perpetrated on migrants was attributed to state officials, armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and criminal gangs in the report prepared by UNSMIL.

READ: More UN revelations about fuel smuggling off Malta

Boys recruited by local armed groups

The United Nations stated it continued to document incidents of boys aged between 13 and 15 who had reportedly been forcibly recruited by local armed groups. According to the report, children were abducted and forcibly recruited by parties involved in conflict in Derna. Children ended up as casualties in clashes between the Tarhouna-based Kaniyat group and Tripoli-based militias.

The situation of women and girls in Libya continues to be precarious, with findings stating that women and girls were arbitrarily detained at times on the basis of their family affiliation or for “moral crimes” such as engaging in consensual sexual relations outside marriage.

Migrant women and girls in Libya continued to be vulnerable to rape and other sexual violence, perpetrated by state and non-state actors.

Journalists continue to receive threats, intimidation and harassment

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya continued to receive reports of threats, intimidation and harassment of journalists in Libya. In November, some foreign correspondents and Libyan journalists managed to obtain accreditation but the process remained “discretionary” according to the UN.

The report also states that civil society and human rights defenders continued to face challenges, especially relating to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The report also stated it remained deeply concerned about widespread human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of detention and the prolonged arbitrary detention of thousands of men, women and children without due process, describing the humanitarian situation in Libya as “fragile”.

According to the report, there were over 669,000 migrants in Libya which included women and children. The Libyan Coast Guard returned 1,339 migrants to Libya and 3,012 migrants were returned home to 32 countries of origin through the voluntary humanitarian return programme. 2,476 refugees were evacuated out of Libya by UNHCR, 618 of whom were evacuated during the reporting period. The number of migrants and refugees held in detention centres maintained by armed groups are not included in the quoted figures.

Prime minister Fayez al-Serraj who is based in Tripoli and leads a UN-recognised government was in Malta recently for talks with the government. No details about the talks were issued, however migration and bilateral relations topped the agenda.