Leading international NGOs in Libya call for closure of detention centres and the adoption of humane migration policies

Tripoli, 1 August – As the BBC highlights the human cost of Europe’s migration policies, the INGO Forum, representing the 16 INGOs providing assistance in Libya, call for EU leaders to stop enabling the system of arbitrary detention and ensure the protection of the thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in the war-torn country.

The recent airstrikes on Tajoura detention centre, and several attacks on other centers, demonstrate once again the immense danger that refugees and migrants trapped in Libya face. The country is not a safe place of return,” said Theophile Renard, the Libya INGO Forum Coordinator.

More than 3,000 people are confined in detention centres in close proximity to the violence and where gross human rights violations have been repeatedly reported, and trafficking operations enabled to expand.

The ongoing transfer of refugees and migrants to detention centres which have been bombed or suspended due to the deteriorating conditions is alarming.

Detention centres must be closed, and the people held offered safe and legal alternatives. Those most at risk must be urgently evacuated by the UN to safe countries. For this to happen resettlement quotas in Europe must be increased. In the meantime, people must be released and the humanitarian community should be enabled to provide meaningful assistance and protection” says Samia Shehab,  INTERSOS Programme Coordinator in Libya. 

Europe and the United Nations have avoided their commitment to enable the necessary mechanisms to upscale resettlements and evacuations in accordance with humanitarian and legal standards, despite growing international concern over the continued use of arbitrary detention. For over a year, the global media has shown images of ongoing rioting of those trapped in inhumane conditions, who demand for UNHCR and IOM, the UN agencies mandated to provide protection to refugees and migrants. The UN must step up and provide full protection to them.

“The EU claims to have solved the so-called migration crisis by “protecting and saving lives” in Libya, but evidence presented by the BBC shows that migration policies have prioritized border management above lives. The proposed solutions for those in detention – to be released in Libya where they are at risk to be detained again or caught up in an escalating conflict, or to be returned to the countries they fled in search of safety – contradicts international standards”. Fernanda Velasco, the Libya INGO Forum Advocacy Coordinator remarked.

Despite the deteriorating security situation in the country, the number of interceptions by the EU-funded Libyan Coast Guard more than doubled since the start of the conflict in April. The Tragic shipwreck on 25 July where over 100 refugees and migrants lost their lives and dozens of survivors were brought back to Libya, only to be placed in detention, is a stark reminder of the human cost of these policies. The EU and all UN actors must instead suspend all support to the Libyan authorities which enable the interception and return of refugees and migrants to Libya.


Created in 2016, the Libya INGO Forum is an independent network of 16 international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) implementing humanitarian programs to respond to the needs of vulnerable population living in Libya. The Libya INGO Forum provides a joint platform to facilitate the work of its members and efficiently and effectively address issues of common interest.

As of August 2019, the INGO Forum is composed of the following organizations:

1. ACTED – Agence d’Aide à la coopération technique et au développement
2. CEFA – Comitato Europeo per la Formazione e l’Agricultura
3. CESVI – Cooperazione e Sviluppo
4. DRC/DDG – Danish Refugee Council/Danish Demining Group
5. FADV – Fondazione L’Albero della Vita
6. GVC – Gruppo di Volontariato Civile
7. HALO Trust 8. HI – Handicap International
9. IMC – International Medical Corps
11. IRC – International Rescue Committee
12. Mercy Corps
13. MSF Holland – Médecins sans Frontière Holland
14. NRC – Norwegian Refugee Council
15. PUI – Première Urgence International
16. TdH Italy – Terre des Hommes Italia

Humanitarian aid is not about political opinions or economic gains; it’s about our shared humanity and principles

Stefania Donaera
Stefania Donaera
Press Officer, INTERSOS