IS THE UNHCR-LIBYA SUPPORTING THE LIBYAN AUTHORITIES TO ILL TREAT THE REFUGEES?
article published on 3 December on www.refugeesinlibya.org, a website recently created by migrants who have been in a sit-in for more than two months in front of the UNHCR headquarters in Libya.
In the early month of October, the Libyan authorities and its security devices including military armies of different entities sweeped the entire makeshift of Gargaresh. It was a neighborhood dominated by thousands of Refugees, Asylum seekers and Immigrants, UNHCR denies having been informed about these evil plots against its persons of concern, who lived in the neighborhood. How would a government carry out such massive violent raids against Refugees and Asylum seekers without informing the commission responsible for Refugees affairs?
Information linked out, says that the UNHCR, IOM and other key factors from the Libyan government held a meeting to discuss the issues related to migration and refugees prior to the attack on Gargaresh. During the attack and raids, most of the victims were Refugees and Asylum seekers whom the government had legal obligations to protect, but instead they were piled up like criminals then arbitrarily detained in inhumane detention centers both official and unofficial. It took days and upto a week the UNHCR never reacted to these incidents and the plights that its refugees had to go through, the rapes, torture , extortion, forced labor, and grave human rights violations equivalent to crimes against humanity.
However, after a week of starvation and tortures, the already dying refugees and asylum seekers held in the so-called Al Mabani detention center managed to escape with dozens killed and hundreds wounded. They all set their compasses towards the UNHCR headquarters based in Seraj, hoping to be protected and put end to their perpetual fears that they had consequently lived while in the Libyan territories. UNHCR instead of cuddling them, closed its doors and suspended all its activities in the community day center where thousands had camped begging to be evacuated to countries where they can be protected.
These refugees then self organized themselves and started a peaceful demonstration calling for evacuations, and they extended their calls on the Libyan authorities to set free the detainees, but all echoed back without a single reaction from the government and the UNHCR kept quiet.
On the 12th October, UNHCR held a meeting with the representatives of the protesters and discussed several things, but an agreeable solution was not found, therefore, UNHCR brought in the ministry of illegal migration Mr Al Khoja and the community leader of the Seraj neighborhood. Few moments after the convoy left, a sudanese young man was shot dead by unknown militias and the goal was to frighten the protesters as the government officials pointed out what might happen if the protesters refused to cooperate, the authorities had proposed to take the protesters to Ain Zara detention center but the refugees refused the offer, because they knew exactly what would happen to them behind bars.
On the 13th October, UNHCR called for a second meeting and reiterated their calls on the protesters to disperse and refrain from the community day center. They threatened to permanently close the office and drop its flag as they said that the only guarantee to safety for the protesters was the UNHCR flag on the building and once dropped we would be attacked by militias and by the angry neighbors who already felt tired of the mass crowds. The refugees ignored all these threats as they marched towards freedom and protection with their last strength.
During the sit-in refugees have been constantly threatened, beaten and robbed both by unknown militias and the neighbors. And UNHCR kept quiet about all these atrocities that its refugees are subjected to.
Not only that.
UNHCR refused to provide shelters, medical assistance and other life-saving assistance to refugees who camped at its front office; they opted to reach people in greener locations who were not affected by the Gargaresh evil and violent attack.
Then, on the 31st of October, UNHCR called for the third meeting, this time it was with the UNHCR chief of mission Mr Jean Paul Cavalieri. Dozens of issues were discussed and refugees expressed their precarious living plights and therefore stuck to their demand for evacuations. Refugees asked the UNHCR to advocate for the release of their brothers held in inhumane conditions, who are exposed to rapes, tortures, extortions etc.
The UNHCR said it is unable to protect its refugees and asylum seekers, and also will not evacuate refugees who encamped their office. They also said they would only advocate for the release of the detainees if the protesters disperse and refrain from its premises.
Afterwards, the UNHCR tightened and fortified its security forces who were real armed militias guarding its main office, on the 7th November, protesters who stood peacefully waving their sign posts were severely beaten and wounded by the UNHCR’s armed guards, the following day a young boy was stabbed by the same guards. Then on the 24th of November, the UNHCR ordered its armed militias to burn down tents belonging to the homeless refugees. And until date the UNHCR hasn’t replied to questions posed by international organizations for human rights and activists from among the refugees. They kept ignoring the sufferings of refugees camping at their office.
Unashamed, yesterday the 2nd of December UNHCR made a press statement that its community day center would be closed by the end of the year. And their press reads-
“Community day center (CDC) to close by end of year.
It is with deep regret that UNHCR and its partners announce the closure of the community day center in Tripoli. As we have not been able to open the centre for most of the past two months, we believe that the best way to help those trying to access our services in the urban areas of Tripoli is to further develop alternative solutions.
Together with our partners, CESVI and IRC (the International Rescue Committee), we are working hard to find solutions to continue providing life-saving services to vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers as previously delivered at the CDC. This includes medical and psychosocial services, provision of emergency cash assistance and basic relief items, as well as legal counseling (provided by NRC the Norwegian Refugee Council).
The provision of emergency cash assistance in other parts of Tripoli has already started and, to the extent possible, we shall strive to reinforce it, including medical care, emergency cash, food and renewal of UNHCR documentation.
For urgent cases, our hotline numbers listed below remain available:
Urban areas: (0917127644)
NRC call center for refugees and asylum seekers including legal counseling: (0910228833)
Medical assistance for urgent cases: (0910354839)
Benghazi call centre: (0910007218)
This move has left Refugees baffled, contemplating why UNHCR chose to abandon them to this horrendous situation. And the question is:- For how long does the UNHCR have to close and suspend all its activities in their headquarters and premises claiming that protesters are preventing other protesters who are most vulnerable from accessing their services. While working secretly in different locations to persons who were not affected by the Gargaresh development, leaving behind the most vulnerable women and children sleeping in the streets? And after the closure of its community day center where do the homeless, unsheltered refugees have to go? What’s preventing UNHCR from providing temporary accommodations for them. Is the UNHCR telling the Militias, look here are your preys, come and detain them?
UNHCR has long cooperated with the Libyan government at disembarkation points of refugees and asylum seekers intercepted on the Mediterranean sea by the so-called Libyan coast guards. At these disembarkation points they come only but in full deception as they provide biscuits and water to those intercepted, then promise them with freedom afterwards and that they would do anything it takes to bring them to safety. At this point the traumatized and exhausted victims of the EU border pushbacks are given a hope which lasts only for hours. When the disembarkation process is done, the UNHCR staff drives away leaving behind these refugees to fates all unknown and is well planned, designed by the Italian and European states.
They are taken to detention centers inaccessible by the UNHCR and they know exactly what happens to women and children while held in these concentration camps. They pretend and make publicities in the media while in reality, Libya is burning hell for immigrants and refugees.
As we speak thousands of Refugees and Asylum seekers are still held up in inhumane concentration camps managed by the Libyan militias both official and unofficial. UNHCR has so far secured the release of 115 detainees in two different operations, first on the 11th November where 57 individuals were released from Ain Zara detention center following their arrests in October. Second on the 23rd November where 58 asylum seekers were released from Tariq Sekka detention center.
As to date, UNHCR continues to ignore the calls of refugees who longs for protection and are now abandoned in places unfit for a living, with no access to toilets, health care, food and shelters. The UNHCR continues to make plots against innocent refugees.
Refugees’ plights remain unsolved with fates ascribed by the EU states and then embraced by the Libyans within its territories.
We continue to call for protection and evacuation to countries where we can be protected and respected. UNHCR should be clear and transparent if they are unable to protect us. They should close all their offices and exit Libya, let us die knowing we have no one working and benefiting with propagandas made on our names.