Refugees shot dead in Libya were pushed out of UN facility

January 11, 2020 GMT

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Two Eritrean asylum-seekers were shot dead in the Libyan capital, just days after the U.N. refugee agency pressed them to leave its facility citing overcrowding.

The UNHCR confirmed the deaths in a statement Friday saying it’s “deeply saddened” by the killings a day earlier in Tripoli.

Three refugees told The Associated Press that the men were among dozens forced out of the UNHCR-run Gathering and Departure Facility at the beginning of January. The three spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The facility was promoted as an “alternative to detention” but when the numbers of refugees increased, the U.N. offered money and pressed new arrivals to leave. The slain refugees were among those who accepted the money and left.


They were among thousands held in Libya’s detention centers where abuses are rampant. The country is a major waypoint for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

Libya is governed by dueling authorities, one based in the east and one in Tripoli in the west, with each relying on different militias for support. The east-based government has been trying to capture the capital since April.

An AP investigation has found that in a country without a functioning government, huge sums of European money have been diverted to intertwined networks of militiamen, traffickers and coast guard members who exploit migrants.

The militias torture, extort and otherwise abuse migrants for ransoms in detention centers under the nose of the U.N., often in compounds that receive millions in European money, the AP investigation showed. Many migrants also simply disappear from detention centers, sold to traffickers or to other centers.

The U.N. has said the situation in Libya is highly complex, and it has to work with whoever runs the detention centers to preserve access to vulnerable migrants.