The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called Friday on the Libyan government to immediately address the “dire situation of asylum seekers and refugees in a humane and rights-based manner.”
UNHCR said in a statement that raids and arbitrary arrests by the Libyan authorities this month targeted areas largely populated by refugees and asylum seekers that resulted in several deaths, thousands detained, and many homeless and destitute.
“Since the start of the security raids and arrests by the Libyan authorities in October, we have witnessed a sharp deterioration in the situation facing vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees in Tripoli,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Western and Central Mediterranean Situation.
He added that Libyan authorities must come up with a proper plan that respects their rights and identifies durable solutions, saying that many have been left homeless and lost all their belongings as a result of the security operation and are now sleeping in the cold and in a very unsafe environment, remarking that “This is utterly unacceptable”.
UNHCR said some 3000 people are currently sheltering near the Community Day Centre (CDC) in Tripoli, where UNHCR and its partners have been providing medical assistance and other services, adding that their situation is very precarious as many were affected by the raids, demolition of their homes, and have escaped from detention in terrible conditions.
“Together with other UN agencies, UNHCR stands ready to support an urgent plan of action that could help alleviate the terrible suffering of asylum seekers and refugees in Libya. UNHCR continues to call on the authorities to respect the human rights and dignity of asylum seekers and refugees, stop their arbitrary arrest and release them from detention.” Cochetel said.
The UN Refugee Agency has welcomed authorization to restart humanitarian evacuations flights, but warns that it is not enough, saying “This is a positive development for some of the most vulnerable refugees, who have been waiting anxiously for many months to depart. Our teams are already working to ensure humanitarian flights can restart as soon as possible,” according to Cochetel, who reiterated that the UNHCR also needs to be realistic to say that resettlement or evacuation flights will only benefit a limited number of people.
UNHCR added that more than 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers are currently prioritized for humanitarian flights and awaiting their resumption. UNHCR also said it continues to urge the international community to offer more legal pathways to safety outside Libya.