Libya shutting down three migrant detention centers

Libya’s three largest migrant detention centers will shut down after the United Nations and human rights groups reported inhumane conditions.

Many Libyan migrants end up in inhumane detention centers while others risk a dangerous trip across the Mediterranean Sea in search of opportunities in Europe. On Friday, Libya announced three of the worst detention centers will shut down. File Photo by Javier Martin/

Migrants were being evacuated Friday from the facilities in Tajoura, Misrata and Khoms. U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame urged the U.N. Security Council to ask Libya’s official government to release the migrants into the country.

Human rights groups are concerned that the migrants will be relocated to other shelters, causing more crowding. Detainees have described rape, torture, malnutrition and the spread of diseases like tuberculosis.

“These detention centers, at least some of them, they work on a business model that involves smugglers, traffickers, sometimes forced labor,” Amnesty International’s top Libyan official Jean-Paul Cavalieri told the BBC.

The Tajoura shelter was attacked by an airstrike on July 2, which killed 53 migrants. The attack was blamed on warlord Khalifa Haftar’s forces. Libya was also criticized for returning detainees to the facility after the airstrike.

Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said officials were considering shutting down all the detention facilities after the United Nations reported that guards shot migrants fleeing the airstrike on the Tajoura facility.

The officially recognized government, the Government of National Accord, in Tripoli is fighting Haftar for control of the country. The fighting has killed more than 1,000 people and injured more than 5,700. Another 100,000 people have been forced from their homes, the U.N. World Health Organization reports.

A week ago, 150 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after their boats capsized. They were trying to head to Italy. On Thursday, 52 migrants, including 16 women and two babies, were rescued from a boat that was in danger of sinking.

Spanish authorities have warned Proactiva Open Arms to stop rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea or face fines up to $900,000.

ByNicholas Sakelaris