Almost all people who attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea pass through Libya. Between January and mid-August 2021, the EU-funded Libyan Coastguard intercepted over 22,000 people at sea and returned them to Libya. This has resulted in an increase in the number of people arbitrarily detained in detention centres, often in violent, inhumane conditions.
MSF provides medical care and food and hygiene kits to people held in detention centres in the country’s northwest.
Migrants and refugees living outside detention centres are exposed to life-threatening risks, such as being held captive by trafficking networks in clandestine jails. Our teams provide healthcare to migrant communities outside of detention – including those who have escaped – in Tripoli and Bani Walid.
MSF also supports the Ministry of Health in its tuberculosis response; we provide technical support in Misrata and Tripoli, and provide diagnosis and treatment to patients in two facilities. We provide ante- and postnatal care to mostly Libyan women in Bani Walid.
Dire conditions for migrants and refugees in detention centres in Libya
Our returned Head of Mission Beatrice Lau describes the conditions for migrants and refugees in detention centers in Libya. MSF suspended activities in the detention centres in Tripoli in late June 2021, as a response to the level and rate of violence observed towards migrants and refugees held indefinitely in Libya’s detention centres. Despite this latest decision, efforts to intercept, forcibly return and arbitrarily detain men, women and children in detention centres in Libya are ongoing.
Our activities in 2022 in Libya
Data and information from the International Activity Report 2022.
By the end of 2022, there were more than 650,000 migrants in Libya,* with 3,489 estimated to be in detention centres managed by the Department for Combating Irregular Migration,** and between 2,000 and 5,000 in non-official centres scattered across the country.
MSF continued to hear accounts from migrants who were subjected to multiple forms of ill treatment, such as physical abuse and sexual and gender-based violence. In addition, migrants reported arbitrary arrests and detention in inhumane conditions, kidnapping, forced labour, human trafficking and family separation.
Our teams provided basic healthcare, mental health support, and sexual and reproductive health consultations in health facilities inside detention centres and in urban settings. We refer patients to hospitals for specialised care. We also offered protection services, aiming to identify people with vulnerabilities and referred them to other organisations in Tripoli who could meet their specific needs.
During the year, the Libyan coastguard intercepted at least 24,684 individuals attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea and forcibly returned them to Libya.*** At disembarkation points across the west of the country, our teams offered basic medical services, psychological first aid, emergency referrals and follow-up care. We also distributed food and hygiene kits. After November, we were unable to continue these activities, as permission was withdrawn by the authorities. However, our teams remain ready to respond in case of emergencies.
TB is another focus of our activities in Libya. In 2022, we supported the national TB programme and also assisted with the establishment of the first isolation unit for the management of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) in Misrata chest hospital.