Monday, 20/1/2020 | 12:07 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Migrant shooting highlights concern about Libyan coast guard

The death of a Sudanese man from a gunshot wound after a group of migrants fled from guards taking them to a detention center in Libya is raising fresh, troubling questions about the plight of people caught in the conflict-torn country and the role of the European Union-trained Libyan coast guard.

The 28-year-old man was one of several migrants picked up by the Libyan coast guard in waters that are part of a vast search area the country registered last year under an EU-backed plan to hand off control of Mediterranean Sea rescues to Libya and to stop people setting out for Europe.

His death comes two months after 53 migrants were killed in an airstrike on the Tajoura detention center in Libya. The center is still operating despite deep concern about the arbitrary detention in appalling conditions of migrants trying to reach Europe to escape conflict, persecution and poverty.

Some 5,000 men, women and children are being detained in Libya, more than 3,000 in active conflict zones, according to the IOM.

The latest incident happened Thursday after the coast guard returned a group of migrants to shore at Tripoli's Abusitta disembarkation area. The man was shot in the stomach after armed men fired into the air when several of a group of 103 migrants under guard tried to escape, according to the International Organization for Migration. An IOM doctor treated the man at the scene but he died two hours later in a local clinic.

"This was a tragedy waiting to happen," IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle said of the latest death. "The use of live bullets against unarmed vulnerable civilians, men, women and children alike, is unacceptable under any circumstances and raises alarms over the safety of migrants and humanitarian staff."

European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said "we are deeply saddened and strongly condemn the death" and that the EU wants an investigation launched. "The system of detention centers simply needs to stop," she added.

The arrival in 2015 of well over 1 million people -- most of them Syrians and Iraqis fleeing war -- sparked a major crisis in Europe as countries bickered over how best to manage the migrants. While they worked with Turkey on a deal to stop people entering from the east, the Europeans, led by Italy, also began channeling millions of euros into Libya.

Source: National News Agency