Out of Libya: Gharyan al-Hamra detention centre (related to John's testimony)
Libya

MSF calls for evacuation of most vulnerable migrants from Libya to safe countries

  • Médecins Sans Frontières calls for countries in the EU and north America to offer protection to migrants currently trapped in Libya.
  • An MSF report released today describes the weakness of existing protection mechanisms for people stuck in Libya.
  • An urgent acceleration in the evacuation of the most vulnerable people from Libya to safe countries is needed now. 

Paris – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls on European and north American states, among others, to offer protection to migrants currently trapped in Libya. There needs to be an urgent acceleration in the evacuation of the most vulnerable people by strengthening existing mechanisms and opening alternative pathways for them to leave the country. 

Since the start of our humanitarian response for migrants in Libya in 2016, MSF has repeatedly been confronted with the impossibility of ensuring continuity of medical care for people with the most severe physical and mental conditions, including victims of torture, both inside and outside detention centres. 

“In Libya, the majority of migrants are victims of arbitrary detention, torture and violence, including sexual violence,” says Claudia Lodesani, MSF operations manager for Libya. “They have extremely limited possibilities of obtaining physical and legal protection. As a result, the deadly migration route via the Mediterranean Sea is often their only way out.”

We believe that safe countries, especially in the EU, have a duty to facilitate the evacuation of these victims of violence and to protect them on their own soil.” Claudia Lodesani, MSF operations manager for Libya

“We believe that safe countries, especially in the EU – which has been funding the Libyan coastguard for years and encouraging the forced return of migrants to Libya – have a duty to facilitate the evacuation of these victims of violence and to protect them on their own soil,” says Lodesani. 

Today we are releasing a report entitled Out of Libya, which describes the weakness of existing protection mechanisms for people stuck in Libya. The few legal pathways to safe countries set up by the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are slow and restrictive. 

Only nine nationalities can be considered for registration in the UNHCR’s resettlement programme, and access to registration is almost non-existent for people outside Tripoli, and stuck in detention centres. At the same time, the number of relocation slots in destination countries is very limited.

Of the approximate 40,000 people registered with the UNHCR’s resettlement programme just 1,662 left Libya last year, while some 3,000 people left through the IOM’s voluntary return programme. In contrast, around 600,000 migrants live in Libya in total. 

Out of Libya: migrants and refugees in Zintan and Gharyan detention centres in Libya
A person in Dhar al-Jebel and Gharyan detention centre shows his scars and wounds inflicted during his captivity at the hands of traffickers. Libya, June 2019. 
Jérôme Tubiana/MSF

Our report presents various alternative solutions, such as those instigated by aid organisations in association with governments. In Italy, a humanitarian corridor has already been opened and is allowing the evacuation of a number of highly vulnerable people in need of protection, including patients treated by MSF in Libya. 

Meanwhile in France, discussions are underway with the authorities to evacuate survivors of torture and violence as well as people with serious medical conditions, who would be taken care of by our teams on arrival in France. MSF calls for this type of mechanism to be duplicated in other safe countries. 

“The medical care of people who are arbitrarily and indefinitely detained, or at risk of systematic violence, poses many dilemmas,” says Jérôme Tubiana, MSF advocacy manager for Libya. “Realistically, what we can do to help them in Libya is limited. To truly protect the most vulnerable people, we must urgently get them out of the detention system and out of the country,” he says. 

MSF is one of the few international non-governmental organisations working in Libya. Our teams provide general healthcare and psychosocial support to migrants held in detention centres and living in makeshift housing. We also organise the transfer of more seriously ill people to hospital and support people to register for the UNHCR and IOM’s programmes to help them leave the country.