Libyan authorities violently arrested hundreds of migrants and refugees overnight at a protest camp outside a closed aid centre in Tripoli, aid groups said Monday.
“The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are alarmed by the detention of more than 600 migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers” in the early hours of Monday morning, the groups said in a joint statement.
IRC’s Libya chief Thomas Garofalo said the group’s medical teams had treated several injured people including one with a gunshot wound.
“We understand that hundreds of people, including many women and children, have now been sent onwards to detention centres where conditions are often already dire,” he added.
“Witnesses have told us they were met with violence this morning and that makeshift tents were burnt down,” said Dax Roque, NRC’s country director.
The centre had been providing aid to refugees and asylum seekers before it was permanently closed in December, prompting some migrants to set up a protest camp outside the facility.
Libya has become a key conduit for migrants making desperate bids to reach Europe since the 2011 fall of dictator Moamer Kadhafi plunged the country into lawlessness.
Many end up stranded in the country where they are prey to abuse at the hands of people-trafficking gangs, rights groups say.
Libyan authorities faced an international outcry in October after the arrest of thousands of migrants in raids that left at least one person dead.
Days later, guards had shot dead six migrants at the Al-Mabani detention facility in Tripoli, while at least 24 others were wounded, the International Organization for Migration said.
“Since the mass detention of thousands of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in October of last year, the situation for this population in Libya has only got worse,” Roque said.