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UNHCR in Libya Part 2: Migrants in detention centres: ‘Why does UNHCR want to…

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In this, the second part of our four-part investigation into UNHCR's operation in Libya, we talked to the migrants actually involved in the registration and detention process. They tell Euronews their stories.

Despite increased EU funding for the Libyan coastguard and an Italian memorandum of understanding with DCIM (the body responsible for administering migrant detention centers), no effective provision has been made by the EU to implement human rights and living conditions of migrants in Libya.

The experience of migrants in the conflicting country in North Africa is deteriorating. Many people in this position who spoke to Euronews reported abuse after being thrown into detention centers in the hope of being registered by UNHCR. The testimonies include cases of torture, rape and extortion at the hands of local militias, and when this leads to an attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea, the reports also detail how they were intercepted by Libyan coastguards and automatically imprisoned in detention centers.

"It has become an infinite and terrible circle from which there is no way out," said Julien Raickman, head of the Libyan MSF-France operation. The times.

UNHCR's main mission in Libya is to register migrants and find a solution to get them out of the country. However, as Raickman adds, "the resettlement procedure is totally blocked."

As seen in part 1 of this investigation ➡️ SEE PART 1 the UN agency has been accused of being a “fig leaf” for EU border outsourcing policy; more succinctly, the statement is that UNHCR's action in Libya is ineffective.

The body, led by Filippo Grandi, has repeatedly and urgently called on Europe to evacuate all refugees and dismantle the centers, but blames its inefficiency on the difficulty of gaining access to the facilities – a claim that is contested by militias running the detention centers. . At this stage, it is not clear what level of access UNHCR actually has at each individual center.

As a nonspecific answer, UNHCR's Charlie Yaxley told Euronews: "The work we can do in detention centers is limited because it is done by the Libyan authorities. Our access is restricted and we are limited to conducting security assessments and records., referrals / medical treatments and provision of basic care items ".

On the other hand, Libyan authorities complain about UNHCR's work efficiency in a country where they need to operate without legal status or MOU.

“Some Ethiopian and Somali people in this center (Tarik Sika, controlled by a pro-government militia) stayed for two years here. After a period of one to two years, UNHCR reports that you are refused and cannot be repatriated, ”Captain Abdelnaser Ezam, vice president of the Interior Ministry branch in Tripoli, according to the Government of the National Agreement, told Euronews. GNA).

“During the last period, we had a Somali person waiting for two years here. Then UNHCR's employers came and reported that he refused to be repatriated. The result: He committed suicide by burning himself and died after 2 days in intensive care at the hospital. This is the result of the depression that hit immigrants because immigrants believe that when they register with UNHCR and conduct interviews, they will be directly accepted and repatriated. ” The Somali migrant was named Abdulaziz, he was 28 when he diedin October 2018. He entered the center nine months earlier.

Euronews followed testimonies in four detention centers:

  • Qasr Bin Gashir
  • Zintan
  • Az-Zāwiyah
  • Abu Salim

We wanted to discover and detail how a combination of UNHCR's inefficiency and mismanagement seems to perpetuate the very system being analyzed in this series.

In April, a shooting in the center of Qasr bin Ghashir, outside Tripoli, caused several deaths and injured at least 12 people, according to MSF. It was the same episode in which UNHCR sent a press release arguing that "gunshots were reported in the air" and "no gunshot wounds" ➡️ SEE PART 1; a version overturned by evidence found by MSF and Amnesty International. Prior to this episode, a source told Euronews, migrants were starving for two weeks and UNHCR offered them resettlement in Zintan, known to refugees as one of Libya's worst facilities.

In Zintan, the conditions are desperate: at one point during the summer of 2019, 700 humans were huddled together, starving. Twenty-two have died of tuberculosis and starvation since September 2018. According to information, 120 minors are in this unit.

UNHCR's mandate does not include the provision of food and water for asylum seekers and refugees, but their doctors have had access to the center, as confirmed by Euronews by local authorities. Food supplies are under the control of the Libyan Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM), but serious delays in their payments to catering companies are reported, resulting in service disruption.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights express concern about the “inhuman and degrading” conditions under which these refugees are kept, “as well as ongoing reports of disappearances and trafficking in persons”.

During one of the many protests in the Zintan hangar, migrants made posters that read: "We are victims of UNHCR in Libya" and "We are abused by the human rights organization." Their fight is visible in social media images leaked by journalists like Sally Hayden and reported by the media including AP and NGOs like MSF.

A migrant detained in Zintan told Euronews:

The UN refugee agency “interviewed only 39 of those 650 hungry people… in Zintan in June. Two days ago, only 27 of them had fingerprints for evacuation, ”tweeted human rights lawyer Giulia Tranchina.

Having rejected the Zintan option after the Qasr bin Ghashir shooting, migrants were finally resettled in central Az-Zāwiyah. Others fled: among them a migrant with his pregnant wife. We'll talk about their fate soon.

Back to the center of Az-Zāwiyah. This particular facility is run by a UN-sanctioned militia for human trafficking. One migrant told Euronews that a UNHCR staff member named Waleed supports the resident militia:

This allegation regarding a close relationship between the UNHCR representative and a senior militia member involved in the administration of the center is also referenced in an Israeli news agency article, Haaretz. Here, Waleed is quoted referring to the field manager as a "cousin". According to a migrant interviewed by Euronews, this kind of scenario also unfolded at Abu Salim detention center near the front line: "The UNHCR guy never talks to refugees and is a friend of the local police." He also said the last time the UN agency came to register someone "was 6 months ago".

We asked UNHCR spokespersons about the allegations concerning Osama and Waleed, but that specific point was not addressed by their response to us.

A source inside the center of Az-Zāwiyah tells us that Osama and his men shot migrants who refused to follow traffickers they had been sold to. “Several times there have been shots since we got here. Twice when the prisoners tried to escape, about four were shot in the legs and two were shot dead. ”

Thus, in the two centers where UNHCR operated, Qasr bin Ghashir and Az-Zāwiyah, migrants were fired.

A Guinean migrant, Moussa (not his real name), says he was shot twice in the ankles in Az-Zawiyah. He says he ended up there after three different attempts to cross the Mediterranean and four subsequent extortion attempts to be released. In the prisons he visited, he claims to have been repeatedly tortured. Once intercepted by Az-Zāwiyah Coast Guard Unit, connected to the Osama GangMoussa was brought to the center “and we were without food for two days,” he tells Euronews. His body was thrown into the desert. ”

Osama would later have told the seriously injured Moussa to contact a guy named "Mohamed", who set the price for his fourth attempt to cross the Mediterranean: 3,000 dinars (about 2,000 euros). Moussa was finally saved at sea by the Open Arms vessel and is now safe in Italy.

Moussa was luckier than the migrant who managed to escape the Qasr bin Ghashir shooting with his pregnant wife. Let's call them Mohamad and Aya.

Immediately after the transfer of 325 refugees from there to the Az-Zāwiyah detention center, UNHCR evacuated more than 140 migrants from Libya. When the names of Mohamad and Aya were called, they were not there and lost the chance to leave the country for a safer place. Since then, they have been stuck in the streets of Tripoli with their newborn baby, like most asylum seekers in Libya. "We are afraid to leave," they tell Euronews, referring to the dangers of having no protection in the Libyan capital. "We fled the detention center because the military came to attack us."

Mohamad is now unable to enter the UNHCR Collection and Departure Center (GDF) in Tripoli, as his case is not among those entitled to evacuation. By fleeing the bullets, they lost their right to leave Libya. They repeatedly tried to contact UNHCR offices in both Tripoli and Geneva, and both received no replies. "I'm going to the office to ask about my case and some help like food and shelter, yet no one helping me."

A UNHCR official explained to Euronews that resettlement is prioritized according to vulnerability due to lack of available places and – crucially – a key element of this is being physically in a detention center, as it is where conditions are worst. . People who escape the center do not realize that this affects their prioritization for resettlement.

It can be read as follows: if refugees want to have any chance of …

. (tagsToTranslate) UNHCR (t) Libya (t) Migrant Crisis (t) Migration (t) immersive-tpl

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