Thousands of previously Europe-bound asylum seekers held in Libyan detention centers are said to be in dire conditions and in need of urgent medical help.
“The situation is very tragic… disastrous. There’s a lack of support,” Abdulhameed Muftah Frida, the head of the al-Hamra detention center in Gharyan, said on Thursday.
About 5,800 migrants have been transferred to the center since fighting broke out last month in the coastal city of Sabratha, a hub for human trafficking to Europe. About 2,000 people have already been sent from Gharyan to other centers in the capital, Tripoli.
A local armed group in a Libyan coastal city west of Tripoli has reportedly been halting refugee boats from setting out across the Mediterranean over the past months.
United Nations (UN) agencies have been trying to provide support for the thousands of mainly sub-Saharan African migrants now stranded.
Many have been taken to centers, some of which are notorious for widespread abuse and poor conditions.
Meanwhile, humanitarian workers have limited access to those centers.
Muftah said 70 percent of the migrants who are brought to his center are in need of medical attention and the center cannot to meet their needs.
“We appeal to all international organizations and the Libyan state to consider the humanitarian condition of these migrants,” Muftah added.
He further said there were many children and some pregnant women in the center, several of whom had gone into labor since arriving.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein, who visited Libya on Tuesday, raised the issue of the migrants with Libyan authorities.
Libya has turned into a scene of rampant militancy since the NATO military intervention of 2011, which came amid an uprising against longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Back in April, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) raised the alarm over the climbing number of refugees passing through Libya, who were being traded in so-called slave markets before being held for ransom and subjected to malnutrition and sexual abuse.