Skip to main content

Libya: Guards shoot dead six migrants at detention centre

Libyan security forces have detained more than 5,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the past week
Migrants sit after they were detained by Libyan security forces in Tripoli, Libya on 8 October 2021
Migrants sit after they were detained by Libyan security forces in Tripoli, Libya on 8 October 2021 (Reuters)

Guards shot and killed six migrants at a Tripoli detention centre on Friday, the head of the UN migration agency's Libya mission said, adding that many migrants escaped in the chaos. 

"Shooting broke out and six migrants were killed in total. They were shot by the guards," the International Organisation for Migration's (IOM) Libya mission chief Federico Soda told AFP.

"We don't know what triggered the incident today but it is related to overcrowding and the terrible, very tense situation" at the Al-Mabani facility in the capital, he said.

He added that at least 20 other migrants were wounded.

Soda said security forces in Tripoli detained at least 900 migrants on Friday, likely including many of those who had earlier fled the detention centre.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


The overcrowding at the detention centre, in the Ghout al-Shaal district, had led to chaos there, with people sleeping out in the open and security forces present. 

Two Tripoli residents told Reuters they had seen large numbers of migrants running through the neighbourhood's streets.

Libya: Migrants targeted in 'anti-drug' operation in Tripoli
Read More »

Libyan security forces have detained more than 5,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, in a large-scale series of raids over the past week, housing them in crowded, unsanitary detention centres, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

Libyan authorities said last week that Tripoli carried out a "major security operation" in the capital against alleged criminals, liquor and drug dealers, and illegal immigrants, and detained hundreds of migrants in the process.

"Many perpetrators of crimes" were arrested and "hundreds of illegal immigrants transferred to shelters", the attorney-general said in a statement.

Earlier on Friday, the UNHCR said it was increasingly alarmed about the situation for migrants and refugees in Libya after the crackdown, adding that the raids also involved the demolition of unfinished buildings and makeshift houses that created widespread panic and fear in Tripoli.

"We continue to call on authorities to respect at all times the human rights and dignity of asylum seekers and refugees, stop their arrests, and release those detained," it said in a statement.

The agency also called for the resumption of humanitarian flights out of Libya, which it said had been suspended for nearly a year.

Migrants are known to travel by land to Libya, where they plan to begin their journey across the Mediterranean Sea towards Italy.

Some are detained by border guards as they enter the country, while others are stopped by the Libyan coast guard as they embark on their journey.

According to the IOM, at least 1,146 people died at sea while trying to reach Europe during the first half of 2021.

On Monday, UN investigators said abuses against migrants and refugees in Libya were "on a widespread scale... with a high level of organisation and with the encouragement of the state... suggestive of crimes against humanity".

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.