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MSF slams Libya migrant detention centre conditions

By AFP - Jun 04,2019 - Last updated at Jun 04,2019

ROME — Aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Tuesday slammed the conditions in migrant detention centres in Libya where would-be refugees are malnourished and cooped up with rampant health problems.

"These people frequently eat just noodles, without any added protein, often for months, in insufficient quantities," MSF's head of mission in the chaos-wracked north African country, Julien Raickman, told journalists in Rome.

The detention centres are frequently in inappropriate places such as former schools, hangars and other buildings, sometimes with the windows bricked up.

"You have less than a square metre  per person in many detention centres," Raickman said, noting many cases of tuberculosis.

According to MSF there are more than 5,800 migrants and refugees held in Libyan detention camps, some of which are close to fighting between forces loyal to the Tripoli-based government of national unity and those loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar. 

Hundreds more are held by armed groups elsewhere in the war-hit country.

"The number of people who are in detention centres is unacceptable in terms of suffering. But this is a small figure for which solutions are possible. It's doable," Raickman said.

MSF also pointed to the irony of flying some migrants to Europe after getting them out of detention centres while at the same time the Libyan coastguard prevents migrants crossing the Mediterranean for Europe.

"We managed to evacuate 400 people from these camps [in recent weeks] but at the same time the Libyan coastguard has returned 1,200 people intercepted at sea," Raickman said.

European Union cooperation with Libya has been credited with sharply reducing the number of migrants arriving from north Africa and the Middle East from a 2015 peak when Europe faced its worst migration crisis since World War II.

Italy's tough line on the issue has seen many boats that pick up migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean increasingly return them to chaos-wracked Libya.

But there they face trafficking, kidnap, torture and rape, according to the United Nations and aid groups.

Activists also decry rampant human rights abuses against migrants in Libya as they await passage to Europe and urge the EU not to outsource the problem to Tripoli.

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