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UNHCR saddened by large loss of life in Tunisia shipwreck, calls for end to detention in Libya

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UNHCR saddened by large loss of life in Tunisia shipwreck, calls for end to detention in Libya

4 July 2019
Spain. Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea (file photo).

More than 80 people are feared drowned following a boat disaster off Tunisia. According to the two survivors, the incident occurred on Wednesday night (3 July). Passing Tunisian fisherman came to their rescue and were able to bring four people to shore and to hospital. However, one later passed away.

Two remaining survivors are receiving assistance at our shelter in Tunisia’s Zarzis, while another remains in hospital receiving treatment.

“The status quo cannot continue,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Mediterranean. “Nobody puts their lives and the lives of their families at risk on these desperate boat journeys unless they feel they have no other choice. We need to provide people with meaningful alternatives that stops them from needing to step foot on a boat in the first place.”

Meanwhile, in Libya, UNHCR today relocated 29 refugees from the Gharyan detention centre, 90 km south of Tripoli. Living conditions were dire and detainees were increasingly at risk from encroaching clashes. The refugees from Eritrea and Somalia had been detained for months with very limited access to services, scarce food provisions, and poor sanitary conditions leading to outbreaks of diseases. They have been released to the community, where UNHCR will support them through its urban programme.

UNHCR welcomes the cooperation of the Ministry of Interior of Libya on securing their release from detention, and to our partners the Libyan Humanitarian Relief Agency (Libaid) and the International Medical Corps (IMC) for their commitment and continuous efforts.

UNHCR is continuing to work on efforts to relocate detainees out of Tajoura detention centre, which was hit by an airstrike on 2 July, leaving more than 50 dead and scores more injured.

This week has seen the tragic consequences of conflict on refugees and migrants being arbitrarily held in detention centres.  Given the ongoing violence in Tripoli and the clear risk to civilian lives, it is now more urgent than ever that refugees and migrants held in detention centres are released so they can be moved to safety.

At the same time, renewed efforts are needed to ensure that nobody rescued on the central Mediterranean is returned to Libya.


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