WATCH: Detainees 'stripped of human dignity' in Libya, says MSF

2017-09-08 15:00

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Cape Town – Humanitarian group, Doctors without Borders (MSF), has expressed concern over the arbitrary detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Libya.

In an article on its website, the group revealed that it had for more than a year, been providing medical care to people held in Tripoli detention centres in conditions that were neither humane nor dignified.

"Detainees are stripped of any human dignity, suffer ill treatment and lack access to medical care," the article quoted Dr Sibylle Sang, a medical adviser at MSF as saying.

"Everyday we see how much unnecessary harm is being caused by detaining people in these conditions but there is only so much we can do to ease the suffering."

MSF said that its medical teams treated more than a thousand detainees every month for respiratory tract infections, acute watery diarrhoea, infestations of scabies and lice, and urinary tract infections.

The group said that immigrant centres which were used to keep those found trying to make the perilous trips to Europe were excessively overcrowded "with the space per detainee being so limited that people are unable to stretch out at night and there is little natural light or ventilation".

Meanwhile, in an open letter, MSF International President Joanne Liu, accused the European Union and national governments of funding the criminal abuse of migrants in detention centres in the north African country. 

She said that the detention centres were "a thriving enterprise of kidnapping, torture and extortion".

Watch the video below as Joanne Liu speaks about "human cruelty" in Libya

"European governments have chosen to contain people in this situation. People cannot be sent back to Libya, nor should they be contained there. MSF has assisted people in Libyan detention centres in Tripoli for over a year, and has witnessed first-hand the scheme of arbitrary detention, extortion, physical abuse and deprivation of basic services that men, women and children suffer in these centres," Liu wrote.

Liu also rejected praises for European policies credited with having cut the number of migrants leaving Libya for Europe and drownings in the Mediterranean.

She described such thinking as "at best, pure hypocrisy and at worse, a cynical complicity in the organised business of reducing human beings to merchandise in human traffickers' hands".

Liu wrote the letter after she visited one of the detention centres in Libya, where she said a burly, baton-wielding guard beat back people from a grated door so she would have room to enter and inspect the facility.

"This is what European leaders call success," Liu said.

According to reports, however, the EU indicated that it was aware of the inhumane treatment of immigrants by Libyan authorities, and was working on finding solutions. 

"We are entirely aware of the absolutely unacceptable - even scandalous and inhumane - conditions that some migrants are being held in," Commission spokesperson Catherine Ray was quoted as saying. "We are taking action. We want to change the situation."

Read more on:    msf  |  eu  |  libya  |  north africa

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