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Child refugees abused in UK-funded detention centers in Libya

The Address | Benghazi – Libya

TRIPOLI – Child refugees are facing abuse and malnutrition in a network of 26 Libyan detention centers under the control of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and which the British government is helping to fund, British newspaper The Guardian reported.

According to documents seen by the Guardian, there are 26 active camps which are part-funded by the UK across Libya. There are no exact figures available on the number of children being held but there are thought to be hundreds and possibly more than 1,000.

In the first accounts to the media from minors being held in the camps, the children described being starved, beaten and abused by Libyan police and camp guards.

A 16-year-old boy in one of the centers said: “I have been here for four months. I have tried to escape three times to cross the sea to Italy but each time I have been caught and brought back to the detention center. We are dying here but no one is taking responsibility. We need to be taken to a place of safety but we are locked in here 24 hours a day. We do not see sunrise and we do not see sunset.”

The Guardian spoke to one Eritrean asylum seeker who is just 13 and locked up in one of the camps in Tripoli. He said that detainees get just one or two small portions of white pasta each day and many are starving and malnourished. Many possess just one T-shirt and one pair of shorts and say they are freezing now temperatures are dropping.

One 17-year-old Eritrean boy managed to escape from one of the detention centers and finally reached the UK where he has claimed asylum. An expert medical report has found almost 50 torture scars on his body, consistent with being beaten with batonsand sticks. In a witness statement the boy said that some of these injuries were sustained in beatings from guards at the camp, and others from traffickers.

Giulia Tranchina, a lawyer who is representing the 17-year-old Eritrean boy in London, said: “What young men, women, children and babies are suffering in detention in Libya is one of the biggest failures of our human civilization. European governments, in our name, with our taxpayers’ money, are paying Libyan authorities, militias… to continue detaining and torturing refugees on our behalf, to make sure they don’t get to Europe.”

UK’s Department for International Development confirmed the government was contributing funds for the centers. A spokeswoman for the Department said that UK government officials had raised with Libyan Government of National Accord officials the need to respect human rights of migrants, ensure the provision of basic services and explore alternatives to detention centers.

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