Washington: The United Nations on Wednesday evacuated some 325 refugees from a detention centre on the southern outskirts of Tripoli amid escalating violence near the Libyan capital.
In a statement, the United Nations Refugee Agency said that those rescued from the Qasr bin Ghashir centre were transported to another detention facility in Azzawya, northwestern Libya, where they were “at reduced risk of being caught up” in ongoing fighting between renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s eastern forces and troops loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
“The dangers for refugees and migrants in Tripoli have never been greater than they are at present,” said Matthew Brook, UNHCR Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya.
“It is vital that refugees in danger can be released and evacuated to safety,” Brook added.
The evacuation was triggered by reports on Tuesday regarding the use of armed violence against detainees who protested against the conditions in which they were being held.
While there were no bullet wounds, 12 refugees endured physical attacks that required hospital treatment, the statement said.
The relocation was carried out with support from the Libyan authorities, UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who facilitated a humanitarian corridor to make the transfer possible, the statement added.
The relocation is the fourth UNHCR-organised transfer since the recent escalation of the conflict in Libya as our teams endeavour to get detainees out of harm’s way.
UNHCR has relocated more than 825 refugees from the Ain Zara, Abu Salim, Qaser Ben Gasheer, Tajoura and Zintan detention centres in the past two weeks alone, the statement read.
However, about 3,000 refugees and migrants still remain trapped in detention centres in Tripoli and remain at risk from the “deteriorating security situation” around the capital. Many of the detainees fled war and persecution in their home countries, it said.
India already removed its entire contingent of peacekeeping forces comprising of 15 CRPF personnel on April 6 from Tripoli, a move which was followed by countries like the United States and Nepal.
More than 200 people have lost their lives and 913 have been wounded ever since clashes erupted in the region.
Libya has been largely divided into two factions ever since the death of its dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The LNA-backed parliament controls the east of Libya, while the UN-backed interim GNA governs Libya’s western region from Tripoli.