The international humanitarian non-governmental organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has reported that there are 700,000 migrants in Libya and torture is increasing in the country’s clandestine prisons.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) head of mission in Libya, Christophe Biteau, has shared his analysis of the precarious living conditions of migrants and refugees assisted by the organisation in the region of Bali Walid and detention centres in Khoms and Misrata.
He said there are an estimated 700,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers currently in the country, and although living conditions in “official” detention centres are less unbearable due to voluntary repatriations, torture is likely on the rise in the country’s clandestine prisons. Biteau has been MSF’s head of mission in Libya since 2017.
‘Nothing to put end to migrants’ ordeals’
“Nothing is being done to put an end to the ordeals suffered by migrants and refugees mainly outside official detention centres,” Biteau said. He said MSF doesn’t have access to clandestine prisons but assists people who manage to escape.
“For example, we work with a local non-governmental organization to provide primary care in a migrant shelter in Bani Walid. Some migrants have legs broken in several places, burn injuries, and severely beaten backs. Libyans working alongside us are as horrified as we are. It’s impossible to say how many migrants and refugees arrive in Libya, pass through Bani Walid, and endure this nightmare. Every month we give 50 body bags to a local organization that wants to give a decent burial to migrants and refugees found dead in the Bani Walid area. They say they’ve buried over 730 bodies since last year,” Biteau said.
Drop in detainees at “official” centres
MSF said one of the main changes it has observed since the end of 2017 is that there has been a drop in the number of detainees in “official” detention centres, a number that currently stands at between 4,000 and 5,000 people. “This has made detention conditions a little less unbearable than they were six months ago, [easing] the problems caused by overcrowding. But so many problems still have to be addressed, and the very few international organizations deployed in the country are almost exclusively based in Tripoli and are blind to them,” Biteau said.
He said MSF has no way of knowing how many people are being held in clandestine prisons. However, he said, “kidnapping migrants and refugees and using torture to obtain ransoms is not only widespread, it’s probably increasing. It replaces incomes from local economies impacted by the lack of cash in Libyan banks. Those who survive the clandestine prisons are financially, physically, and mentally ruined. And, if it’s ever going to be possible, they need time and support to recover,” he said.
Find full interview with, MSF Head of mission in Libya, Christophe Biteau here.