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Libya abandoning migrants in the desert without water, warns UN officer

Refugees are seen after being rescued from the Mediterranean Sea on 15 June 2017 [Marcus Drinkwater/Anadolu Agency]
Refugees are seen after being rescued from the Mediterranean Sea on 15 June 2017 [Marcus Drinkwater/Anadolu Agency]

A United Nations human rights official has warned that Libya is deporting people "faster than ever before" and "abandoning migrants without water" in deserts.

The comments were made last week during a Subcommittee on Human Rights at the European Parliament where MEPs, diplomats and UN human rights officials discussed the matter of refugees and migrants in Libya.

Human rights officer, Ben Lewis, said that Libya's Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) is carrying out the removals, and likely expelling far higher numbers of people than its official figures show.

Lewis said: "According to one Libyan official, DCIM is now and I quote, deporting more people faster than ever before."

Migrants without any water supplies are subsequently being forced by DCIM across Libya's land borders, which include remote desert areas, according to Lewis.

DCIM is also responsible for running multiple detention centres across Libya where conditions have been described as inhumane alongside widespread reports of abuse, killings and enforced disappearances.

According to a confidential European Union military report leaked to the Associated Press this month, 12,000 people are currently detained in 27 detention facilities across Libya.

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Speaking at the hearing, Suki Nagra, a director at the UN mission in Libya, added that thousands more people are illegally detained, many held in secret by facilities run by armed groups.

Despite the violent crackdown by Libyan authorities on migrants, the EU report, which was compiled by the head of the arms embargo surveillance mission, or Operation Irini, encouraged the continuation of an EU programme to train, fund and equip Libya's coast guard.

Europe's migration politics have come under mounting criticism. Three NGOs recently submitted complaints to the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleging crimes committed against migrants and refugees between 2017 and 2021 in Libya.

Libyan authorities have ramped up activities to expel migrants, notably highlighted by a brutal crackdown earlier this month. More than 600 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants were arrested and moved to Ain Zara Detention Centre in the southern part of Tripoli.

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