“I invite you to join my prayer for the refugees that are in detention centers in Libya, whose situation, already very grave, is made even more dangerous by the on-going conflict,” Pope Francis said April 28, 2019. “I make an appeal so that the women, the children and the sick, can be evacuated soonest through humanitarian corridors.”
The Holy Father’s comments came after reciting the Regina Coeli with the crowds in St. Peter’s Square. His appeal emphasized the increasingly difficult situation for refugees in Libya.
The reported attack by armed men on asylum seekers and migrants in a detention center on April 23, 2019, highlights the growing risk to thousands of detainees during ongoing fighting in Tripoli, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on April 25. Forces under the command of General Khalifa Hiftar are battling with militias allied with the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
Some migrant detention centers are located near militia bases – ripe targets for attack during fighting – and GNA-backed militia members have allegedly forced some detained migrants to handle weapons, according to unconfirmed reports. The GNA needs to ensure that migrants and asylum seekers in its custody are moved out of harm’s way and to release all those who are arbitrarily detained.
“Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers detained in appalling conditions now find themselves trapped near or on the front lines of conflict,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe, and Central Asia director for HRW. “Any militia members who force them to handle weapons would compound their nightmare – and might be guilty of war crimes.”
According to the United Nations, an estimated 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are suffering. They are living in unsafe conditions with little or no access to health care, essential medicines, food, safe drinking water, shelter or education.