'Get them out of there' - MSF plea on Libya camps

Rome - African migrants languishing in Libyan detention camps need to be "got out of there" as soon as possible, a senior aid official who has just visited some of them said Monday.

Arjan Hehenkamp, the director general of the Dutch branch of charity Doctors without Borders (MSF), told reporters in Rome he had been shocked by the squalid, oppressive conditions he had witnessed in Libya.

"These detention centres are essentially human warehouses," he said of the camps ostensibly under the authority of Libya's government of national unity, but in reality frequently controlled by different militia groups, with whom MSF has to negotiate access to provide basic medical services.

"People are abused, used, traded, extorted," he said.

European efforts to stem the flow of mainly African migrants travelling from Libya to Italy have recently focused on trying to get more of them repatriated to their countries of origin directly from the camps, while also trying to block their arrival in Libya.

Italy has agreed to try to bolster the Libyan coastguard so it can intercept and turn back boats leaving Libya.

And on Sunday Rome announced a deal with dozens of rival tribes in southern Libya on securing the southern border of the vast state.

But Hehenkamp said Libya in its current state could not be part of the solution.

"People (in the camps) have lost any form of control, they are at the mercy of their captors," he said.

"They can't talk but their eyes are pleading. After that, you only have one thing in mind: 'get them out of there, get them the heck out of there, let them escape'."

He added: "There is a necessity for a humanitarian evacuation for anyone who is a migrant in Libya, regardless of how and why they came in the first place."

Hehenkamp also voiced doubts about the possibility of organising large-scale voluntary repatriations.

"To call it voluntary is a mockery. On the other hand, anything else is probably better than staying in the detention camps," he said.

"They should be brought to places where they can be assisted, where they can recover, where there is a government with the capacity to take care (of them)."

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