UNHCR appeals for end to arrests of asylum seekers in Libya, calls for urgent resumption of humanitarian flights
This statement is attributable to Ayman Gharaibeh, Director of UNHCR's Regional Bureau for the Middle East and North Africa
We are increasingly alarmed about the humanitarian situation for asylum seekers and refugees in Libya. Following a large-scale security operation by the Libyan authorities in the past week, arrests and raids have been taking place in many parts of Tripoli, targeting areas where asylum seekers and migrants are living.
At least one person was reported to have been killed and 15 were injured. More than 5,000 people have now been arrested and held in several detention centres in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Among those are several who had been prioritized for evacuation or resettlement flights out of Libya.
The raids, which also involved the demolition of many unfinished buildings and makeshift houses, have created widespread panic and fear among asylum seekers and refugees in the capital. Many, including unaccompanied children and young mothers, who had lost their shelters and are now homeless have approached UNHCR staff and partners at the Community Day Centre (CDC) for urgent assistance.
As a result of the raids and deteriorating conditions, we have seen increasing crowds of asylum seekers protesting in front of the CDC in Tripoli, appealing for evacuation out of Libya and resettlement. UNHCR and partners were able to provide assistance to asylum seekers, including food, other relief items and emergency cash at the start of the crisis.
But in recent days, escalating tensions among the crowd, resulting in injuries of two partner staff members, and the hindering of access for other asylum seekers in urgent need of help, has prompted us to temporarily suspend regular services at the centre.
We continue to call on authorities to: respect at all times the human rights and dignity of asylum seekers and refugees, stop their arrests, and release those detained, including those who had been due to leave on evacuation and resettlement flights.
We renew our appeal to the Libyan authorities to allow the resumption of humanitarian flights out of the country, which have been suspended for almost a year.
The suspension of humanitarian flights has led to several resettlement countries informing UNHCR that they can no longer receive additional resettlement submissions from Libya for 2021. This will result in the loss of 162 places on direct resettlement flights out of Libya. In total, it is expected that nearly 1,000 resettlement slots will not be filled either from Libya or through the Emergency Transit Mechanisms (ETM) in Rwanda and Niger. The ETM allows UNHCR to evacuate people out of Libya, and then to process their claims for long-term solutions.
The flights have been a lifeline for asylum seekers and refugees in Libya.