Hundreds of refugees and migrants gathered on Sunday outside a UN center in Tripoli to ask for assistance in fleeing Libya after what humanitarian organizations described as a brutal crackdown that resulted in hundreds of people being detained and three people being killed.
A nation that has had no peace for a decade, yet has become a key transit route for individuals looking to reach Europe in pursuit of more opportunity, the migrants claim, has turned violent assault and extortion against them.
“We have done nothing wrong except leave our country,” Sudanese refugee Mohamed Abdullah, 25, said. “But we are regarded as criminals and not as refugees.”
After being detained in five separate Libyan prison facilities, he said he had been assaulted and tortured, and that he had no where to turn for safety or sustenance.
An army crackdown in Tripoli that started a week ago resulted in more than 5,000 arrests, and humanitarian and human rights organizations expressed concern about the situation.
According to the U.N. migration organization IOM, guards in a detention center shot and killed at least six migrants on Friday due to pandemonium caused by the overcrowding, while dozens more tried to escape before being arrested once again.
Many of the people lining up in front of the United Nations building in Tripoli, some of them injured and having bandages on their heads, legs, or hands, were sleeping on the street. Some people had to rely on crutches or the assistance of family and friends to get around.
Famine, despair, and exploitation were all mentioned. “In jail, I endured a lot of beatings and humiliation. Many victims had been assaulted and tormented in some way “said 27-year-old Sudanese Matar Ahmed Ismail.
“We are dealing with a difficult problem in the illegal migration file, as it represents a human tragedy in addition to social, political and legal repercussions both locally and internationally,” the Libyan Government of National Unity stated.
As a result, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) issued a statement saying it was working to assist those who had gathered at the center, and urging them to depart so that it could reach the most vulnerable. Additionally, it said that it was ready to help with humanitarian flights out of the country of Libya.
Nadia Abdel Rahman, her husband, son, and sister, brother-in-law, and nephew fled to Libya from Eritrea through Sudan three years ago in the hopes of sailing to Europe.
They kidnapped and held her husband for ransom before killing him after she paid. Her brother-in-law perished in the Mediterranean while trying to travel by boat.
In the crackdown, she claims, she was detained last week and is now in jail. We want nothing more than to leave Libya, she said.
Intervening with the Interior Ministry “to stop this misery,” said Mousa Koni, a member of Libya’s Presidency Council, which serves as temporary head of state.