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UNHCR warns of COVID-19 risks facing migrants detained in Libya

TRIPOLI – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday expressed concern about the COVID-19 risks facing migrants held in detention centers in Libya.

“With the increased COVID-19 cases in Libya, UNHCR has been particularly concerned about the high risks facing people held in detention centers, in overcrowded conditions and with poor sanitation facilities,” the agency said in a statement.

Migrant shelters in Libya are crowded with thousands of immigrants either rescued from the sea or arrested by the Libyan security forces, despite international calls to close those centers.

“UNHCR has long advocated for the release of all refugees and asylum seekers from detention and an end to the arbitrary detention in Libya,” the statement said.

The UN agency also revealed that it has helped support the transfer of all migrants

detained in the southwestern Libyan city of Zintan to the capital Tripoli upon their release by authorities. Most had been detained for more than two years in extremely dire conditions.

“Currently, nearly one thousand migrants and asylum seekers remain in Government-run detention centers in Libya, 190 of whom are persons of concern to UNHCR,” the statement said.

Thousands of undocumented migrants, mostly Africans, choose to cross the Mediterranean from Libya towards Europe, due to the state of insecurity and chaos in the nation following the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

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