Cape Town — Countries such as Britain, the United States, Canada, France, Germany and Norway should offer emergency sanctuary to refugees and migrants whose lives are threatened by fighting in Tripoli, says the international humanitarian group, Doctors Without Borders.
More than 3,000 people trapped in detention centres in the capital are “at imminent risk of being killed or seriously injured” in cross-fire, the group says. “People in these detention centres are unable to flee for their lives, and their provision of food, water and other essential services has deteriorated from already poor levels seen before the fighting.”
Libya is a major transit country for Africans wanting to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe, either fleeing conflict or seeking better prospects, but the refugees and migrants have been caught up in fighting as the renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar tries to seize control of the capital from the country's Government of National Accord.
A week ago, more than 50 people were reported killed in a military strike on the Tajoura detention centre in a suburb of Tripoli.
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, known by the acronym MSF) says in a crisis report issued on Monday that since fighting began, only 1,296 refugees have been moved out of Libya. At the same time, 2,700 trying to get to Europe by boat have been intercepted at sea and forced back to Libya in violation of international law.
“More people are going in than are being evacuated out,” the report says. “People rescued at sea must not be sent back into this cycle of suffering on Libyan shores... Lifesaving humanitarian evacuations are futile if these illegal pushbacks to Libya continue, and they can only be successful if safe countries (like the UK, France, Germany, the U.S., Canada, Norway, etc.), offer emergency sanctuary for these exceptionally vulnerable people.”
The report adds: “MSF is calling for immediate humanitarian evacuation out of Libya for refugees and migrants exposed to the most imminent life-threatening risks, including those trapped in Tripoli detention centres.
“MSF is further calling for urgent solutions to end arbitrary detention, i.e. the closure of all detention centres, and safe alternatives for refugees and migrations stranded throughout the country.”