By Lizzy Okoji
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), has raised concern for detained migrants and Libyan civilians, as military convoys approach the capital Tripoli.
Leonard Doyle, IOM’s Information Officer in Geneva, made this known in a statement published on the organisation’s website on Friday.
The statement said, during the clashes in August 2018, more than 14,000 civilians were displaced and over 2,000 migrants were caught up in the fight.
It quoted António Vitorino, IOM’s Director General, as saying that “the safety of migrants in detention is especially concerning, should there be an escalation in military action.
“The fate of all Libyan civilians and the safety of humanitarian workers also remain an overriding concern.
“Migrants, including men, women and children who are being held in often sub-human conditions amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation are particularly vulnerable.
“Libya is not a safe place to return migrants who have tried and failed to make their way to Europe,” Vitorino said.
According to the statement, earlier in Tripoli, António Guterres, UN Secretary General, made a strong appeal for a de-escalation and the end to deployments by military factions across the country.
It stated that Guterres also underscored that migrants in detention “are not only Libya’s responsibility but are the responsibility of the whole international community.
It stated that Guterres also visited Ain Zara Detention Centre on Thursday where there are currently over 600 detainees and he spoke to men, women, and children who have been held there for months.
According to the statement, the UN Chief said he was shocked by the level of suffering of migrants and “especially by the level of despair that I found”.
It was disclosed in the statement that so far this year, 1,073 migrants, among whom are 77 children, had been returned to Libya after interception and rescue at sea and placed in arbitrary detention.
Mr Frantz Celestin, IOM Chief of Mission, had expressed worry over the mistreatment of irregular migrants in detention facilities in Libya, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
Celestin called for the need of governments, UN, international organisations and other partners to end the mistreatment of irregular migrants in detention centres.
According to Celestin, mistreatment of irregular migrants in detention is a breach of fundamental human rights, one of the issues the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) seeks to address.
“We have heard such complaints from different circles on different forms of mistreatment and in this case of torture, we have not been able to document it. That is not to say it doesn’t happen.
“That is something we certainly will look into because if human beings are being tortured simply from crossing the boarders, that is something that of concern.
“This is something we need as an international community and not just IOM, and that includes the government of countries of origin to put our voices together to say No, that cannot happen.
“This is what basically the GCM is trying to address because you have a framework within which government can operate and have an idea specifically how migration is not one country’s problem.
“In fact, we don’t see migration as a problem, it is a reality that we have to effectively deal with and we are smart enough to put the necessary mechanisms in place to effectively manage it.
“And to make sure that people migrate with dignity and respect throughout the process,’’ Celestin said.
Celestin said that the conditions of the detention centres were also disheartening as they were overcrowded with poor sanitary facilities, a cause in which the IOM had been intervening.