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28 Apr 2015
A spike in the number of migrants held in “dire” Libyan detention centres led to calls for their release on Tuesday.
More than 2,600 men, women and children from east and west African nations are thought to be in eight government-run detention centres for illegal immigrants, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said.
At least half of them were found by the Libyan coastguard in waters off Tripoli in the past 10 days, according to UNHCR.
Daniel Johnson has more.
The UN refugee agency has access to just eight out of 15 centres in Libya, where it warned that the already bad conditions are deteriorating as the number of detainees rises.
UNHCR said pregnant women and children are among those held, mainly from east and west African nations including Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Agency spokesperson Ariane Rummery called for “very vulnerable” migrants to be released.
“Our local staff and partners who are visiting these immigration detention centres say that conditions are very, very poor indeed, and there are urgent needs for more medical help, improved ventilation, sanitation as well as basic relief items.”
UNHCR said anyone found to be staying illegally in Libya is held from “one week to 12 months”, though it can organise the release of detainees within a few days.
But for that to happen, new arrivals need to register with the UN, and this is becoming harder amid increasing security concerns.
To date, UNHCR has 36,000 registered migrants and asylum-seekers in the country.
Daniel Johnson, United Nations