The International Organization of Migration has reported on the deplorable conditions of detention camps in Libya. The intergovernmental organization, which provides services and advice concerning migration to governments and migrants, has demanded that some be closed immediately.
A reported 400,000 migrants are currently stranded in Libya, although unofficial estimates say they are between 800,000 and one million, according to Federico Soda, director of the coordination centre for the Mediterranean at the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
There are around 30 detention centres in the country, hosting some 8,000 people in “terrible” condition and they “should be closed immediately,” Soda told the Italian parliamentary committee for the implementation of the Schengen agreement on 4 August.
“We were able to visit only 20 of these centres,” he elaborated, adding that the conditions were terrible. “We imagine that those we were unable to see are even worse. We are working to improve them but we would like to see them closed,” the IOM official said.
The IOM is about to receive funding worth 18 million euros from Italy, according to Soda. Out of this amount, at least 2 million would be used to improve conditions in the detention centres, 8 million would go towards voluntary repatriation assistance and the remaining 8 million would be used for the stabilization of southern Libya, he added. The funding would be disbursed over a period of three years.
The IOM official also said that the organization would receive additional bilateral funding from other countries. “The problem is not lack of funding, but that we are asked to carry out activities that we are unable to realize due to conditions on the ground,” Soda said.
The IOM representative said that in 2016, the organization carried out over 110,000 assisted voluntary repatriations from Europe, including more than 50,000 from Germany alone. “Repatriations from Italy, from July 2016 until today, were only 500 while 3,600 were carried out between 2008 and 2015 they were 3,600,” he said.
Similarly, UN refugee agency UNHCR special envoy for the Central Mediterranean route, Vincent Cochetel, told Italian news agency ANSA that migrant detention centres and camps in Libya are “just prisons, some controlled by the authorities, some by militants and traffickers” with “terrible conditions” to which all migrants who disembark on the Libyan coasts are subjected.
“We can hope that one day there will be decent and open centres, but now they don’t exist,” Cochetel said.
Italy sent a “limited naval mission” into the waters of the North African country to help Libya’s coastguard patrol its coast and prevent migrants from sailing to Europe. The mission is Rome’s boldest efforts so far to slow down the arrival of migrants from Africa.
Italy hopes that sending migrants back to Libya will have a significant deterrent effect, as most of the over 95,000 migrants who landed in Italy so far this year started their journey across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya.