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UN Urges Release of Refugees, Migrants in Libyan Detention Centers


FILE - Troops from eastern Libyan forces are seen in Ain Zara, south of Tripoli, Libya, April 11, 2019.

U.N. aid agencies are urgently appealing for the release of thousands of refugees and migrants held in Libyan detention centers near combat zones, where their lives are in peril.

Security in the Libyan capital Tripoli is worsening as fighting increasingly moves from the suburbs into the city center. The World Health Organization reports the number of war dead now has risen to 121, with nearly 600 wounded.

WHO condemns repeated attacks on health care workers. It notes eight ambulances have been struck since a renegade general began his march on Tripoli 11 days ago.

The U.N. refugee agency reports more than 1,500 refugees are being held in official government detention centers in Tripoli. Spokesman Babar Baloch tells VOA there is great concern for the safety of the refugees and the many migrants who are being detained in areas where active conflict is ongoing.

"We have spoken to refugees in detention centers who tell us that they can hear the clashes, and many are really scared. So…we are asking, advocating for release of all refugees and migrants from detention," he said.

The U.N. human rights office is calling for guarantees of protection of extremely vulnerable civilians, including refugees and migrants, many of whom are being held in horrific conditions. Human Rights spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani told VOA the inmates are under significant peril as many may be caught in the cross fire.

"Especially when armed groups involved in the conflict exercise influence or control over the detention facilities, these ad hoc detention facilities for migrants. Based on previous experience in Libya, we are also concerned that migrants may be used as human shields or forcefully recruited to fight as well," she said.

The U.N. agencies are urging the Libyan authorities not to abandon the refugees and migrants in the prisons and detention centers. They are calling on all parties in this conflict to guarantee that detainees are treated humanely, in line with international law.

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