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IOM Concerned About African Migrant Deaths at Libyan Detention Center

Migrants share a bowl of pasta during their lunch at the courtyard of a detention center for migrants, in the village of Karareem, around 50 kilometers from Misrata, Libya, Sept. 25, 2016. Libya is an important transit and destination country for migrants who arrive seeking employment or a path to Europe.

The International Organization for Migration says it is working with Libyan authorities to improve conditions and stave off an emerging crisis at the Gharyan Al Hamra detention center, about 90 kilometers south of Tripoli.

IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle says his organization is very concerned by the death of a migrant two days ago, the fourth such death in the past three weeks. He says all the men, who most likely came from West Africa, have died from liver failure.

“Whether that is brought about through malnutrition or something else, I do not know ... this is particularly tragic given that these are migrants trying to make their way to Europe to a better life. They end up in detention and quite often in pretty poor conditions. The humanitarian situation is pretty grim for them.”

Doyle says the facility holds 1,798 migrants. He says IOM staff was conducting a medical assessment in the facility when it discovered the seriously ill migrant. He says he was subsequently transferred to a hospital where he died November 6.

Doyle tells VOA that IOM is working with local and international partners to quickly take care of the immediate needs of detainees in the facility.

"We are struggling to bring humanitarian relief to those who are detained. In particular, in helping the detained migrants disinfecting their conditions, fumigating living areas, distributing winter clothing, blankets, bedding and other materials. The conditions are particularly grim and have been for a long time."

Doyle says IOM staff identified 300 unaccompanied children who were being detained and have started removing them from the adult population.

The International Organization for Migration reports nearly 340,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to Italy this year. This is significantly lower than last year's figure of more than one million arrivals.

But IOM reports more than 4,200 migrants have died making the perilous crossing this year, a new high. It expects the number of migrant deaths to climb before the year is out.