- Title: War creates new uncertainty for migrants in Libya
- Date: 23rd October 2019
- Summary: TAJOURA, TRIPOLI, LIBYA (FILE - MAY 8, 2019) (REUTERS) DEBRIS ON FLOOR OF TAJOURA MIGRANT DETENTION CENTRE DAMAGED BY STRIKE/ HOLE IN CEILING HOLE IN CEILING FROM DAMAGE MIGRANT SLEEPING VARIOUS OF MIGRANTS SITTING ON MATTRESSES WOMEN AND CHILD SITTING
- Embargoed: 6th November 2019 09:59
- Keywords: migrants in Libya migrant detention centres in Libya Tajoura detention centre migrants
- Location: TRIPOLI AND MISRATA, LIBYA
- City: TRIPOLI AND MISRATA, LIBYA
- Country: Libya
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA002B2BIKPJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: After three days at sea trying to reach Europe, Demba Dembele was intercepted by Libya's EU-backed coastguard and returned to Tripoli - where, like dozens of other migrants, he got in a taxi and set off into the city.
For years, migrants sent back to Libya have been routinely transferred to government-affiliated detention centres notorious for squalid conditions and abuse.
Now, with several centres closing, some migrants are being allowed to walk free when they disembark, though they face an uncertain fate in a country shaken by renewed conflict over the past six months.
Dembele, a 28-year-old from Mali, had twice tried to get to Europe. After his first attempt failed, he spent three months in detention where he said he saw guards firing on migrants who tried to escape on two occasions.
During his first attempt, he saw one Liberian man shot dead.
Smugglers' boats still leave frequently for Europe, but the proportion of migrants being intercepted and returned to Libya has risen over the past two years.
This coincided with a collapse in the networks that sent more than 600,000 across the central Mediterranean from 2014-2017, as armed groups seeking to clean up their image have moved away from the trade.
Just 8,400 have made the crossing to Italy so far this year, and 7,400 have been intercepted and returned, according to United Nations data.
But the shift has made Libya even more brutal for migrants who remain, exposing them to increased levels of abuse and extortion by smugglers struggling to make money in a shrunken market, researchers and aid workers say.
Detention centres nominally under the Tripoli-based, internationally recognised government are controlled by armed groups now involved in the fight against Haftar, and some migrants have been enlisted in the war effort, aid workers and rights groups say.
The centres have also become targets. In July, more than 50 migrants were killed in an air strike on a centre in Tajoura, close to where Dembele Hamed disembarked.
Though Dembele and more than 80 other African migrants who left in taxis avoided immediate detention, aid workers worry that some may be even more vulnerable to underground smugglers if they are not taken to the centres, where international organisations have at least sporadic access.
Libya has an estimated migrant population of 640,000. The centres house just 5,000, but turnover can be rapid. In the past, centres that were closed have reopened, or new centres have sprung up at different sites.
(Production: Ayman Sahely, Mai Shams El-Din)
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
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