The U.N. human rights office has condemned a recent escalation of violent, deadly attacks and abusive treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, allegedly by both Libyan state and non-state agents.
This month, the U.N. agency says at least five people were killed and many injured during a series of heavy-handed security operations and raids against migrants and asylum seekers.
It says mass expulsions of people to countries in sub-Saharan Africa have taken place. The rights office says that violates laws against the forcible deportation of individuals to places where their lives could be at risk.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Marta Hurtado says last week, Ministry of Interior personnel raided an informal settlement near the capital, Tripoli. Among the inhabitants, she says, were hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers registered with the U.N. refugee agency.
“Women, children and men were arrested and handcuffed. Security forces used unnecessary and disproportionate force to detain them, including shooting and beating those who resisted or tried to escape," said Hurtado. "As a result, at least one person died, five were injured, and more than 4,000 were detained.”
Hurtado says those arrested have been taken to an overcrowded, unsanitary, government-run detention center in Tripoli, where they have little access to food or water. She says similar scenarios have been repeated since then.
On October 6, 500 migrants escaped from the Gheriyan Detention Centre in Tripoli. Hurtado says they were chased by guards, who opened fire using live ammunition. She says preliminary information indicates at least four people were short and killed and many others injured.
A recent report by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya said the widespread and systematic violations suffered by migrants could amount to crimes against humanity.
Hurtado says the government justifies raids against the migrants as a necessary measure to tackle crime.
“What we are saying is if you want to tackle crime, try to go against the traffickers," said Hurtado. "Do not go and pick up the migrants and detain the migrants that are quite often the victims of these traffickers. Having said that, the government has acknowledged as well that maybe what happened last week was not the best way forward.”
Hurtado says the government has promised to free some of the migrants.
The U.N. human rights office is calling on authorities to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the violent events and to hold perpetrators of crimes and abuse accountable. It says authorities also should stop criminalizing people solely for their migration status and end their policy of forcible deportation.