Libyan security forces crack down on migrants protesting outside UN office

Libyan security forces crack down on migrants protesting outside UN office
Hundreds of migrants, including women and children, have been detained by Libyan security forces following a raid on a protest outside a UN office demanding better protection from local authorities.
2 min read
10 January, 2022
Thousands of migrants and refugees have been held by Libyan authorities [file photo-Getty]

Libyan security forces attacked a group of migrants protesting outside a UN community centre in Tripoli on Monday, witnesses and refugee campaigners have said. 

Armed security personnel ambushed the protest camp overnight, burning down tents and detaining more than 600 people, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). 

At least one community leader was shot in the chaos.  

"We were caught off guard," said Aiysha, a Sudanese migrant who was part of the sit-in protest, told Al Jazeera

"They burned the tents, burned everything." 

Those rounded up in the raid were taken to a detention centre in the nearby town of Ain Zara. Others were able to flee and hide. 

"We are alarmed by the detention of hundreds of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, including women and children, that were camped out in front of the former Community Day Centre in Tripoli," said Dax Roque, the NRC’s Libya Country Director. 

"This is the culmination of a disastrous situation that has deteriorated over the last few months," said Roque.  

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In October, Libyan authorities gathered more than 5,000 people, including hundreds of children and women, in what was described as a security operation against illegal migration and drug trafficking. The UN condemned the move for penalising migrants. 

Those camping outside the international body's office were demanding an end to further crackdowns on refugees and better protection from authorities. 

"The events unfolding should act as yet another reminder that the current situation for migrants and refugees in Libya is untenable and requires a new approach that respects the rights of people on the move," said Thomas Garofalo, the International Rescue Committee Country Director. 

Refugee campaign groups, including the NRC and the International Rescue Committee, have urged Libyan authorities to immediately release those detained and ensure they are protected from further violence. 

Libya, a country plagued by conflict for over a decade, has become a gateway for migrants hoping to travel from Africa into Europe. 

Despite reports of squalor conditions facing those stuck in Libya for months on end and stories about dangerous boat crossings over the Mediterranean Sea, thousand continue to pass through the country in order to flee poverty, war, and persecution.