Migrants in Libyan Refugee Camps Face Hunger, Violence, Disease

‘Africans Live in Terror’

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Hunger, diseases (especially coronavirus), violence: the situation of migrants in Libya gets more and more difficult.

«Africans live in terror» Mussie Zerai, a priest of the Asmara eparchy, always attentive towards immigration issues. explained to Fides News Agency. «They have no certainty. Those who live in one of the 22 refugee camps managed by the government of Tripoli no longer know who to refer to: the commanders often collude with traffickers, politicians are absent, the military are violent». In the centers of Tripolitania, there are about five thousand prisoners. They are Eritrean, Ethiopian, Somali, Sudanese. Other camps are present in Cyrenaica. There are also many illegal centers managed directly by the militias. They are full of people who are fleeing poverty and looking for a better future in Europe.

Many have found themselves trapped in Libya where the civil war has raged for months between the militias that obey the government of national agreement, led by Fayez al-Serraj (based in Tripoli), and the forces of General Khalifa Haftar (in Benghazi). In recent months, the clash, especially on the outskirts of Tripoli, was very strong. And it worsened with the entry of international actors: Turkey, alongside al-Sarraj; Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt in support of Haftar. New and deadly weapons were tested, such as kamikaze drones used by Tripolitania militias to stop the advance of Cyrenaica forces. And, despite a note from UNSMIL (the UN mission in Libya) announced the resumption between the parties to reach a ceasefire, there is still fighting on the ground.

«Fighting – continues Abba Mussie – also prevents controls by the United Nations. As an Eritrean community, we asked UNHCR (UN refugee agency) to check the conditions of migrants in some camps. The officials of the Glass Palace have failed to reach or enter any of the centers. And we are not sure what happens in these structures».
Communication with detainees is very difficult. «Some of them have telephones – abba Mussie continues – but they cannot call or speak. The risk is that cell phones are destroyed or seized by prisoners. So we do not even know in what sanitary conditions they live».

Under normal conditions there was no medical assistance in camps and lung and skin diseases were widespread. To this, coronavirus has been added in recent weeks. Officially, 152 cases and 5 deaths have been recorded, but the fighting makes a more precise census of the epidemic impossible. «In the centers – abba Mussie observes – people are crowded together. They cannot keep their distance. Medical supplies have not been distributed. We fear that the virus can spread quickly and cause numerous victims».

In this situation, even the small local Catholic Church finds it difficult to intervene in support of migrants. «The fighting and widespread violence – concludes the priest – make any movement impossible. Even if I want to, I cannot tell the boys and girls to go to the churches of Tripoli. The risk is that, as soon as they move, they will be beaten and robbed. The situation is difficult. The conflict must stop and humanitarian organizations must be able to intervene as soon as possible in favor of these migrants who live in hell».

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