Hundreds of refugees and migrants say they were abandoned in a detention center in the middle of renewed fighting in Tripoli after they were returned to Libya earlier this year by the EU-backed coast guard.
The local militias of the Presidential Council guarding the detention center – a prison in Ain Zara, southern Tripoli – ran away on Monday morning, a young Eritrean man said. Food and water have already run out, and refugees risk being killed if they try to leave, he said. Among the hundreds still there are pregnant women and children.
“We hear machine guns, tanks, big bombs. We see from the roof it’s all fire, all everywhere. We need food especially for the children, they can’t tolerate this,” he said. “We see bullets passing over us and heavy weapons passing on the street.”
Migrants intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean have been returned to war-torn Libya since Italy struck a deal to fund Libya’s coast guard in February 2017. This has attracted fierce criticism from human rights groups, while former UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein condemned the move as “inhuman”.