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Refugees in Libya launch hunger strike, demand evacuation

July 8, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Refugees in the Tajoura detention centre in Libya that survived a deadly air strike last week are demanding to be evacuated for fear of another attack.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) has blamed military commander Khalifa Haftar for hitting Tajoura detention centre last Tuesday and killing around 60 people.

Since the strike survivors have slept outside for fear another is imminent. Now they are on hunger strike in a bid to push international bodies to ensure they are relocated to a safe place.

The United Nations has said thitey will move them to another centre in a safer part of the city, but they have rejected this as a temporary measure rather than a long-term solution.

The strike on Tajoura came amid deadly fighting between Khalifa Haftar, who controls the east of the country, and forces loyal to the Tripoli-based GNA.

Read: International bodies condemn the Libya air strike, but they have failed the country

Roughly 1,000 people have been killed since Haftar advanced on the Libyan capital in April; 5,000 have been wounded and more than 100,000 displaced.

The strike has sparked renewed criticism of Europe’s migration policy, which aims to keep people in Libya rather than offering them a safe passage out of the country, to curb the number arriving on Europe’s shores.

Under a 2017 bilateral deal between Italy and Libya, the EU trained Libyan coast guards to return people rescued at sea to Libya where they are kept in detention centres described by the UN as “inhumane”. Refugees are detained in these centres indefinitely and report torture, rape, forced labour and extrajudicial executions.

Under the power vacuum that followed long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s death during the Arab Spring, smugglers have flourished in Libya and the North African country has become a main departure point for migrants hoping to reach Europe.

On Saturday Tunisia’s coast guard recovered the bodies of 14 African migrants who drowned when their boat sank after leaving Libya.