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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Thousands of migrants trapped in middle of escalating Libyan violence

Inter-militia conflict around Tripoli has killed 30 people since Sunday, health ministry says

Migrants in a shelter after they were relocated from government-run detention centers (Reuters)
Migrants in a shelter after they were relocated from government-run detention centers (Reuters)

Migrants have been left isolated and without access to food after nearly a week of clashes between warring militias in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned.

Libya’s health ministry said on Thursday that 30 people were killed and 96 injured as a result of clashes that broke out on Sunday. The figures were released as fighting resumed on Thursday and the situation is likely to deteriorate.

“The fighting has further jeopardised the lives of an estimated 8,000 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who have been trapped and arbitrarily held in closed detention centres throughout the city,” MSF said.

“The recent fighting demonstrates that Libya is not a safe place for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers,” said Ibrahim Younis, the MSF head of mission in Libya. “Many have fled from war-torn countries or have spent months in horrible conditions while being held by human traffickers before they were put in these closed detention centres.”

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The UN refugee agency said it moved about 300 refugees and migrants out of a detention centre in Ain Zara, one of the focal points for conflict.

“Libya is not a safe country, and European governments must acknowledge their responsibility to help the most vulnerable people trapped in Libya,” MSF said.

It accused the Libyan administration, the UN and governments from safe countries of failing to establish an effective way to process asylum claims and it said some European countries had created policies that stopped asylum seekers from leaving Libya.

It called on these countries “to acknowledge Libya is not a place of safety” and to help those trapped in the conflict-ridden North African nation.

The Libyan Red Crescent said it had been unable to open safe passages for some in the south of Tripoli because of the intense fighting.

The UN-backed government in Tripoli tried to bring about a ceasefire and instructed two of its most senior military commanders to mediate between the militias.

Maj Gen Osama Juwaili, the western zone commander, said: “All of the fighting forces must return to the headquarters they held before the clashes.”

The fighting pits pro-government militias against a brigade known as the Seventh, or the Kani, and allied forces led by Salah Badi, a militia leader who was blamed for leading the destruction of Tripoli in 2014. He has seemingly returned from his base in Turkey.

Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord Fayez Al Sarraj said: “We have called from the outset to spare civilians these armed confrontations, which will only lead to further destruction and innocent casualties.

“The perpetrators will be brought to justice,” he added.

The prime minister rejected accusations that the Kani Brigade was a unit of the government’s defence ministry and said it had been disbanded in April.

Mr Al Serraj's spokesman denied claims that the prime minister had fled Tripoli as the conflict raged.

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