‘They hit us with live ammunition’ – migrants in Libya share tales of abuse

Migrants in Tripoli
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Migrants spoke out on Friday about the fierce attack on Qasr Ben Gashir detention centre, saying they were hit with live ammunition, leading to many deaths and injuries.

Several migrants said they had witnessed an attack on the detention centre for illegal immigration in southern Tripoli, where armed groups fired at them and killed many.

Those who survived were evacuated and brought to al-Nasr Martyrs Centre in Zawiya.

One Eritrean migrant said armed men shot at children and adults while they prayed and threw her to the ground.

“At the time I was holding my child,” she added.

The director for rescue and development at the al-Nasr centre, which provides accommodation for illegal migrants, said they had received over 700 migrants after the attacks.

Migrant Yaqoob Haron said that armed groups fired on them at Qasr Ben Gashir with live ammunition, shooting some in the throat, head, and legs.

The United Nations evacuated more than 350 migrants on Thursday (April 25) from Qasr Ben Gashir district run by the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, an area that has become the main theatre of fighting.

MSF said that over 700 unarmed men, women and children were trapped in the Qasr Bin Ghashir detention centre.

The watchdog said residents of the centre have been moved to another detention camp west of Tripoli on Wednesday and Thursday.

“While they are no longer in the direct vicinity of fighting, people are still subjected to dangerous and degrading conditions and rapidly changing conflict dynamics that continue to pose a threat to all those locked up in detention centres in and around Tripoli,” it warned.

Human Rights Watch has also sounded the alarm.

It quoted two migrants from a detention centre in an eastern suburb of Tripoli and a third one who was detained in the centre of the capital as saying armed men have forced them to work for them.

In one instance two detainees said they were ordered to repair military vehicles and “to load, unload and clean weapons”, including machine guns, HRW said.

Libya, long a major transit route for migrants desperate to reach Europe, is home to around 6 000 migrants who are held in official detention centres, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Hundreds more are held by armed groups elsewhere in the war-hit country.