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Detained refugees in Libya moved to safety in second UNHCR relocation

UNHCR officials address refugees detained in the Abu Selim before the relocation. (AGENCY PHOTO)

TRIPOLI – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, on Tuesday, April 16 relocated another 150 refugees who were detained in the Abu Selim detention centre in south Tripoli to UNHCR’s Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in the centre of Libya’s capital, safe from hostilities.

The Abu Selim detention centre is one of several in Libya that has been impacted by hostilities since clashes erupted in the capital almost a fortnight ago.

Refugees at the centre told UNHCR that they were petrified and traumatised by the fighting, fearing for their lives.

UNHCR staff who were present and organizing the relocation reported that clashes were around 10 kilometres away from the centre and were clearly audible.

While UNHCR intended to relocate more refugees, due to a rapid escalation of fighting in the area this was not possible. UNHCR hopes to resume this life-saving effort as soon as conditions on the ground allow.

“It is a race against time to move people out of harm’s way. Conflict and deteriorating security conditions hamper how much we can do,” said UNHCR’s Assistant Chief of Mission in Libya, Lucie Gagne.

“We urgently need solutions for people trapped in Libya, including humanitarian evacuations to transfer those most vulnerable out of the country.”

Refugees who were relocated were among those most vulnerable and in need and included women and children. The relocation was conducted with the support of UNHCR’s partner, International Medical Corps and the Libyan Ministry of Interior.

This relocation is the second UNHCR-organized transfer since the recent escalation of the conflict in Libya.

Last week UNHCR relocated more than 150 refugees from the Ain Zara detention centre also in south Tripoli to the GDF, bringing the total number of refugees currently hosted at the GDF to more than 400.

After Tuesday’s relocation, there remain more than 2,700 refugees and migrants detained and trapped in areas where clashes are ongoing. In addition to those remaining at Abu Selim, other detention centres impacted and in proximity to hostilities include the Qasr Bin Ghasheer, Al Sabaa and Tajoura centres.

Current conditions in the country continue to underscore the fact that Libya is a dangerous place for refugees and migrants, and that those rescued and intercepted at sea should not be returned there. UNHCR has repeatedly called for an end to detention for refugees and migrants.

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