Profile picture
Sally Hayden @sallyhayd
, 293 tweets, 142 min read Read on Twitter
For the last 24 hours I've been texting & calling with refugees in Libya. 500 are apparently stuck in a Tripoli prison w/o food & water after heavy fighting broke out two days ago. They say their guards ran away, leaving them alone.
These refugees are men, women & children. They tried to cross the Mediterranean earlier this year, but were found by Italian boats, who turned them over to the EU-backed Libyan coastguard, who put them in prison. The conditions were already terrible before the fighting started.
Oh the phone earlier I could hear children crying & what sounded like bombing in the distance. The refugees say everyone's incredibly frightened. "We hear machine guns, tanks, big bombs, last night from the roof it was all fire."
A separate Tripoli source confirmed the fighting in the area, south of the city, & said he believes the prison entrances were blocked by sand blocks. Among the refugees are pregnant women. Those inside say another day w/o food & water could lead to deaths.
One refugee locked in the prison said this suffering is a failure of the EU, who turned them back, of the UN, which has barely helped them, & of Europeans for not realising they're humans with no other choice but to try & reach safety.
(Stopping now to write a story but I'll update more later.)
Update: migrants have reportedly been set free elsewhere in Tripoli because of the fighting, but hundreds are still trapped in a detention centre at Ain Zara without any assistance. The roads are closed & international NGOs I've contacted say they can't reach them.
Here's a photo taken from the detention centre earlier: you can see a fighter with an anti-aircraft gun outside. The refugees say even if they're set free they'd be afraid to leave. They could be caught by Libyan militias or ISIS.
Another update: The refugees said some Libyan guards came back & said they might move them somewhere else, but wouldn't say where. They're worried they're going to be sold on to a militia or into forced labour. They say many aren't registered with UNHCR.
I'm in touch with several NGOs on the ground who all confirmed there is fighting in the area. One said it could be a few days before it calms down & they can reach the detention centre. Meanwhile, I've lost touch with the refugees: it seems their phone battery has died.
The last thing they said was to appeal again for food & water. Here's how many they say were stuck inside:
Background: The EU-backed Libya-Italy deal began in February, 2017. It's been condemned by groups including Amnesty (…) & the ex UN human rights chief called it "inhuman" (…). C.20,000 migrants were forced back to Libya under it in 2017
Even before the fighting broke out, conditions were bad in the detention centre. Here's what they told me:
Another update: just got a desperate call from a refugee saying people have arrived with around 25 cars & said they are taking everyone there away. Refugees have no idea who the people are & are worried it's traffickers who will sell them on.
"They said you have to come with us, you will die if you stay here," he said. But refugees are refusing to move, they're so worried about being tortured/forced to pay ransoms again/sold into slave labour. They're begging for an international organisation to show up.
In the past (before trying to get to Europe this year), a refugee there told me he was tortured with electric shocks by traffickers, who forced his family to pay $12,000 in ransom, which they raised by collecting at church & begging friends & relatives for loans.
I'm in touch with several organisations in Libya who are saying they don't believe these cars were sent by a humanitarian organisation (meaning the refugees are in serious risk). The refugees have turned off the phone again to save battery, so it'll be a while until I hear more.
Another update. They reckon the people who came with cars were smugglers. They had weapons but civilian clothes. The Somalis went with them but Eritreans, Ethiopians & Sudanese are left behind, on their own again.
Final message from Tripoli. Just to reiterate, these are hundreds of refugees & asylum seekers who were sent back to Libya bc of EU policy. They're meant to be protected by the UN. Instead, they're alone, in the middle of a war zone, with no food/water & no idea what to do.
Another update: It's morning in Tripoli but the refugees left in Ain Zara say the gun fighting hasn't started yet, soldiers have gone & streets are eerily quiet. The remaining refugees (minus Somalis, who went with the suspected smugglers) didn't sleep for fear they'd be taken.
They say they urgently need water. "There's no food, no water. The children are crying. We are suffering, especially the children. We haven't slept in two days. We are waiting for some miracle. Tell them the people are dying here." As we spoke some gunfire sounded in the distance
For those asking: IOM, UNHCR & MSF have all told me they're aware of the situation, but any further action depends on security considerations.
Another update: refugees say they're still alone, fighting has intensified again & a bomb went off close to the detention centre. Waiting for a video but the network is bad.
Here's audio & a still from the detention centre. The video I was sent shows young children crying on the floor and women praying after a bomb went off nearby.…
Please do listen to the audio:… #libya #tripoli
Update: the suspected traffickers are back & are forcing the refugees to leave. The Somalis taken last night have been locked in a house, their phones taken off them.
The refugees say they've gathered together in one place & are refusing to go. International organisations still saying the area is inaccessible but they're "monitoring" the situation. The suspected traffickers are armed & say cars will arrive soon to take the refugees away.
Here's my story in today's @IrishTimes with some background information on the situation:… Here's Al Jaz with more info on the outbreak of fighting in Tripoli:…
(The phone is now switched again, I think to save battery.)
Here's one refugee's assessment of the work international organisations did in the detention centre before this fighting: "They are afraid of the Libyans. Some human rights come in this place, they don't talk to us, they give us shampoo, they say calm down, calm down."
"They are saying to us you are under UNHCR, but the UNHCR doesn't even come here to register us," he said. He also said a refugee in the detention centre was shot by the guards a month ago after they protested asking for UNHCR to visit.
Update: they're now being shot at.
Another voice message pleading for someone to help. "They're doing it right now, right now. They're shooting guns. They're trying to take us from this place."
The refugee who phoned begged me to post this video showing the women & children inside the detention centre. He said he hoped it would make people finally help them. I haven't heard more since they said the shooting started, nearly 45 mins ago.
Update: things are calmer but eight busses have apparently arrived to take them away. The migrants are refusing to go, they say they still don't know who sent the busses. They also say they still haven't got food or water. (Turning off the phone again to save battery.)
Another update: Eventually, confirmation seemed to come that the buses came from Libyan authorities. International orgs said they were monitoring (though couldn't assure safety), so the refugees agreed to get on. I tracked the buses by GPS & updated various people.
We're still trying to confirm that they've arrived in an official migrant detention centre. The refugees say after months of asking for it they're still unregistered with UNHCR - one of the reasons they're worried they could just disappear/be taken by a militia.
They said the new place is very dirty, they don't know if it's safe/who it's run by & there's no bedding, but I've cross-checked with a few people & they at least seem to be away from the fighting. Thank you everyone for following what has been quite a frightening day.
Thanks for the chance to clarify. They say the Italians saw them & told the Libyans where they were. The Libyan coastguard then brought them back to Libya. At that stage they had been at sea 14 hours.
Thanks so much again everyone who followed. I've now confirmed they're at an official detention centre away from the fighting - IOM says 400 arrived together. Around midnight they were finally given some cake & yoghurt - their first food in two days. Last (nice) msg from them.
Today they are hoping to get registered so there's at least some record who's there. Even away from the current fighting, there's still no guarantee of their safety. Someone from an int org said to me yesterday: "In Libya today everybody is at risk so not an easy situation."
& another update: even though they've been moved to a different part of Tripoli they're still frightened & can still hear the sounds of war. No food yet today either. #libya
I didn't expect to keep adding to this for so long, but want to keep highlighting what's happening. Elsewhere in Tripoli it seems hundreds of migrants were released from other centres over the past few days & left to make their own ways to new shelters, or else have disappeared.
Libyan authorities reportedly discussing releasing the group of refugees I'm in touch with, or else moving them out of Tripoli, because the fighting is getting nearer to the new detention centre. Their response:
Good to see Reuters coverage now, including up on the @nytimes.… Here was my original piece, written on Monday.…
Currently discussing what could happen next to these refugees with aid workers on the ground. If the fighting continues there seem to be no good options. 1. If they're released they'll almost certainly be kidnapped by traffickers, tortured & held for ransom.
2. They could be moved to detention centres outside Tripoli which are apparently much worse. There's less oversight by & access given to international aid organisations, & fighting often breaks out among the smuggling groups/militias involved in running them.
Here's more from @reuters on the background to the current fighting in Tripoli. “I think it’s a race against time and I feel like the (Libyan) state’s disappearing. It’s hard now to tell where’s the state and where’s the militia.”…
Summary at the end of Day 4: Since Sunday I've been talking to migrants pushed back to Libya by EU policy. Heavy fighting broke out, they were abandoned w/o food or water, a bomb went off nearby, they were shot at, eventually moved, fighting got closer again. Their thoughts now:
They say one of these portions was the only food they got all day.
They also have this comment on UNHCR (who they still hope will register them soon).
Response below from the refugees who were abandoned alone in Ain Zara, Tripoli, to the latest Reuters story about them.… #libya
Over the past few months there have been protests in Libyan detention centres about substandard conditions, how detention is indefinite & calls for access to international organisations. The refugees from Ain Zara say protesters were assaulted & tortured:
More from the refugees from Ain Zara detention centre on being forced to work in the houses of officers & wealthy Libyans while in captivity. They were beaten if they refused to, & say it only stopped when the fighting got bad this weekend.
A Libyan who works in Tripoli detention centres also contacted me after seeing this thread. He wanted to confirm reports that smugglers/traffickers work inside the detention centres, & sometimes sell migrants as forced labour.
UNHCR statement on migrants being moved from Ain Zara detention centre after they were abandoned amid fighting:… Doesn't mention the Somalis who refugees say were taken by suspected traffickers on Monday night:
Update at the end of day 5: MSF came to the detention centre today, gave them plumpynut & did medical checks. A journalist came & gave them biscuits (pictured). Fighting not too loud today. They're sleeping ten to a mattress on the floor.
They're ending the day with their first proper meal. Still very keen to get registered with UNHCR.
MSF have released a statement: "The fighting has further jeopardised the lives of an estimated 8,000 refugees, asylum seekers & migrants who have been trapped and arbitrarily held in closed detention centres throughout the city."… #libya
More on how the EU-funded Libyan coastguard ends up bringing migrants trying to escape back to Libya. After their families paid huge ransoms they were released from torture & sent to sea. After 14 hours in the Med they called the Italian navy, who told them they'd be rescued...
They say if they had known the boat that would catch them was a Libyan boat they would have chosen to die in the sea.
I was on BBC Newshour tonight talking about the last week for the refugees I'm in touch with in Libya.…
Yesterday's BBC Newshour: UNHCR were on from 30 mins in & I'm on from 34…
Worth noting the UNHCR spokesperson says they have regular access to the detention centres, but the migrants say they've only seen UNHCR once in months & UNHCR still hasn't registered them.
Human Rights Watch statement released today (Sat): "Authorities released 290 migrants as fighting began, showing how precarious the security situation remains...& raising questions about the EU's efforts to outsource migration control to Libya."…
Horrific update: another group of migrants have got in touch. They say nearly 400 of them have been abandoned in the fighting & six have already died of starvation. #libya #tripoli
An update from the other group who were moved earlier this week: they say @MSF have been in the last few days & credit them with saving lives.
Urgent update: the refugees moved to a "safer place" in Tripoli say their guards have run away again. #libya
And now they're being told to leave the detention centre. Fighting is escalating. They're terrified.
I'm being contacted by yet more refugees who are sleeping on the streets after escaping detention centres in search of food. Many int orgs are evacuating staff as the fighting escalates. When you locate refugees it's hard to figure out which militia controls the area they're in.
Refugees sleeping on Tripoli's streets asking me what they should do, saying they trust no one in Libya & ending: "Sorry miss i'm going to shut of my phone because there gun shoot near us."
Today marks one week since I got the first unexpected message from refugees in Libyan detention centres, & fighting in Tripoli is getting worse & worse. Int orgs describe "indiscriminate shelling". This Al Jaz report says "rockets rain on Tripoli"…
I'm now in touch w 3 separate groups displaced by fighting: 1st: Told they could be kicked out of their detention centre at any time. 2nd: Say six have died from starvation, still working to locate them. 3rd: Sleeping on streets & caught in fighting after escaping abandoned DC.
As recently as Wednesday, the EU-backed Libyan coastguard was saying they're "rescuing" migrants & refugees trying to get to Europe by returning them to Libya.…
There's a huge amount happening now that I can't share yet publicly. Groups making up nearly 1,000 migrants I'm in touch with are in incredibly dangerous situations. Fighting escalating & int orgs can't reach them. They say UNHCR in particular has totally abandoned them. #libya
Refugee abandoned with hundreds of others amid fighting in Tripoli reacts to seeing @Refugees high commissioner tweet suggesting UNHCR will pull out of Libya, says he can't tell anyone else bc they'll all lose hope.
Libya declares state of emergency in Tripoli & abandoned refugees say buildings are smoking around them. This group includes 120 women & 20 children. When their guards ran away yesterday they also took provisions left by international orgs.
A migrant who was being held in another detention centre got in touch. Here's what he said happened when the fighting began & those locked up were "released." #tripoli
As international organisations prepare to hold meetings to figure out what to do, a refugee in Tripoli asks how children can continue to survive w no food in the middle of heavy fighting.
...& questions the value in moving them to yet another building in a country where they've experienced such abuse. #libya
Here's a message a refugee sent me last night to play on @morningireland. The sad truth is I don't know whether this group is still ok - I haven't heard from them yet today. They were all sent back to Tripoli earlier this year under EU policy.…
The same refugees UNHCR says they "moved out of harm's way" in Tripoli last week respond to @melissarfleming's tweet saying UNHCR are still working () They've been abandoned again w/o food & water in fighting for the last two days. #libya
Even the blankets which UNHCR said they were distributing came days late & then were apparently stolen by the guards as they ran away from the new detention centre. Meanwhile, refugees are starving again. #tripoli… #libya
I realised I threaded this tweet wrong: here's a link to the interview I did with @BBCNewshour last Friday (from 34mins). I had no idea then things would get so much worse. The next day I got the msg from another group about 6 migrants dying of starvation.…
What can you say to people who are starving, yet can't move because of war & the fear they'll be kidnapped by traffickers? There are 20 young children in this group.
Refugees in Tripoli have asked me to share this message from a young mother, among hundreds abandoned in one area who haven't eaten in days. She says eight pregnant women are also starving. This is the group who were already "moved to safety" last week.…
Lots of people now asking how I got in touch with these refugees, but they actually contacted me. The first message (below) was completely unexpected. He said his brother knew my reporting on Sudan & found my contact details online. Since then, my number has been passed around.
I spent the first 24 hours talking to them trying to verify they were who they said they were. I asked for selfies, GPS coordinates, WhatsApp locations, we spoke on the phone, I got relatives' contact details & made sure backstories checked out.
I also cross-checked broader facts they told me with trusted sources in Tripoli, who confirmed everything they said. At the time, none of us expected the situation to escalate so much, so quickly.
After two days, & coordination between various international organisations, food arrives to an abandoned detention centre - but not enough for everyone. #libya #tripoli
Just released: UNHCR has updated its position on returns to Libya: says Libya is not a safe country & migrants/refugees rescued or intercepted at sea should not be returned there.,UNHC…
"As the situation in Libya remains fluid and uncertain, UNHCR calls on all countries to allow civilians (Libyan nationals, former habitual residents of Libya & third-country nationals) fleeing Libya access to their territories.",UNHC… #tripoli
Here's a section on migrant detention centres (referencing the last nine days weeks of fighting): "In all facilities, detention conditions reportedly fail to meet international standards and have been described as “appalling”, “nightmarish”, “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”
"Presently, there is no possibility of release, except in the context of repatriation, evacuation or resettlement to 3rd countries". "Male & female asylum-seekers, refugees & migrants, incl children, are reportedly systematically subjected to or are at very high risk of torture."
Nice to see my reporting referenced in the section on the most recent fighting. However, it's bittersweet for my main source - who's still trapped in Tripoli & hoping for urgent evacuation, along with thousands of other refugees.,UNHC…
Potentially big development to watch today: Two high level UNHCR staff are saying UNHCR is pulling out of Libya. Staff on the ground still say they're not. Refugees not registered are terrified they'll be abandoned if this happens.
UNHCR also reportedly negotiating to evacuate a number of refugees to Niger in the next few weeks, but refugees in Libya say the number (at max about 1/4 of just those who were in "official" Tripoli detention centres) is not enough. They're worried they'll be abandoned.
Libyan media reporting the vacant US embassy in Tripoli has caught fire, as clashes in the city continue. Here's an unverified video reportedly showing smoke rising from it.
UNHCR briefing note, just released, includes the detail that the EU-backed Libyan coastguard "rescued" another 276 refugees and migrants who were trying to escape Libya, & brought them back as recently as Saturday.
Video reportedly shows migrants fleeing a Libyan detention centre.
More on those who fled from a detention centre near Airport Road, from refugees in touch with them. Several sources saying more than 1,000 were being held there, very near fighting. #tripoli #libya
Ceasefire agreement announced. Even if it only holds for a short time, international organisations say it may enable them to reach & help some of the refugees & migrants currently trapped. #libya #tripoli
51 MEPs from 14 EU countries release a statement: "GUE/NGL is calling on the EU & member states to take urgent action to evacuate refugees & migrants in Libya to safety in the EU & suspend support to the so-called Libyan coast guard."…
This is the tenth day I'm talking to the group of 400ish refugees who were moved from Ain Zara to Abu Salim, & are still caught amid fighting. Here's what one of them sent me about an incident that happened since the fighting began. #tripoli #libya
In a statement today, UNHCR said the distribution of "further assistance" to this group "had to be called off because of worsening clashes in the area." Triq Al Matar, 1 of 2 centres they did deliver to, is (I think) the one 1,000+ migrants fled from today…
UNHCR has also now told NGOs in Brussels that they are massively reducing their presence in Libya, rather than pulling out. In-country staff are saying essential staff will stay, even if the others leave.
My latest @irishtimes - on how we'll never know how many refugees & migrants are disappearing during this fighting in Tripoli.…
I'm being sent a lot of photos I can't share for security reasons, including one of baby twins who were born while their mother was in smugglers' captivity, before trying to get to Europe.
Talking more about the smugglers/traffickers that many of these guys were held captive by for more than a year before they paid ransom & were put on boats towards Europe. These are Eritreans.
More on being held captive by Libyan smugglers, who are known to extort Eritreans particularly for huge amounts of money.
I actually wrote about this before on the Sudanese border, where Eritreans are also kidnapped, held for ransom, & many are raped. This has become a business all the way along the migration routes to safety.…
Libyan authorities & int orgs keep using the word "released" to describe making migrants leave detention centres for the first time in the middle of heavy Tripoli fighting. Those I'm in touch w say they've given up hope of UN help & are looking for smugglers again.
Paying smugglers means convincing their families to sell everything they have left after paying already crippling ransom fees. They have a 1/18 chance of dying in the sea crossing, according to the latest stats. Since June, there have been 7 incidents where 50+ drowned together.
"According to the UN human rights office (OHCHR), a humanitarian worker - trying to evacuate civilians trapped in a neighbourhood - was reportedly shot at, while one of the armed groups involved is alleged to have confiscated three ambulances."…
Around 800 migrants reportedly moved from the Airport Road/Triq al Matar detention centre to a "safer" place, UNHCR sources attributed with here:… Hundreds of others still on the streets, including two injured in fighting, acc to refugees in touch with them
I was on the @irishtimes World View podcast yesterday talking about some of this:
Latest for @zeitonline includes straight testimonies from migrants/refugees caught up in the Tripoli fighting (in German).…
Big news from Abu Salim detention centre, where a baby was born last night. You can see in these pics they used plastic bags instead of gloves & the mother had to give birth in a big hall with many others, but I'm being told baby girl is healthy & well. #libya
They didn't have pain medication or anything else during the labour, but around 30 minutes after she gave birth an ambulance arrived to take her and the baby to hospital, according to others who were there.
At the same time there was birth, there was also death. Here's an audio of mourning someone sent me from the same centre yest. They found out a man held with the same smugglers as them has died. They believe he was tortured to death by Libyan authorities.…
They say the man who died was registered with UNHCR & staying in Triq al Matar, the centre hundreds fled from this week. Apparently he protested about conditions, asking why they couldn't be moved from the country & saying it was too cramped/too hot/there wasn't enough water etc.
After that they say around 20 migrants who started the protest were taken to prison, where they were forced to labour. But the man who died refused to work. One day they took him away & brought him back injured, saying he had been shocked with an electric current.
But the friends who took care of him saw stick marks across his body. Thirty minutes later the man died. This was several weeks ago, before the recent round of fighting broke out, but the news has just reached those in this group who knew him.
Hundreds of migrants/refugees in Abu Salim (prev Ain Zara) have just been told they're being moved to another detention centre, they believe is hundreds of miles away, tomorrow. They say they'll refuse to go. They want to be evacuated from Libya. #tripoli
Evacuation of refugees and migrants out of Libya is urgently needed, says MSF in new statement.… #tripoli MSF say they're now only able to provide limited assistance.
Direct response from MSF to UNHCR's claim that they "evacuated" migrants in Tripoli, only for them to be abandoned in the middle of fighting again. (UNHCR statement:…)
This group still desperate to be registered with UNHCR before they're moved to another location. Most are from countries Eritrea, Somalia & Sudan. I've been asking UNHCR since Aug 30 why so many are unregistered but no response.
Here's how many in Abu Salim detention centre they say aren't registered with UNHCR, even though they've been asking for months. They say this can have all kinds of repercussions including them being sold to traffickers while no one notices.
UNHCR has now posted on FB saying they're registering in one location in Tripoli. Refugees I'm speaking to considering breaking out of detention centres & braving militias across the city to make it there to register. Not sure why they weren't registered before fighting started
"I told them I'm going to prison": a migrant/refugee describes finding his own way through militia checkpoints, back to a detention centre in Tripoli to be locked up indefinitely because of how dangerous it is on the streets.
I'm also now getting messages from people whose relatives are being held for ransom by smugglers in Libya. The smugglers make hostages call relatives, sometimes while they're being tortured, & beg for money.
UNHCR has again advertised their one location doing emergency registration in Tripoli, but still no explanation of why they didn't register so many refugees in detention centres before this. People still messaging me to ask should they break out of DCs to try get there.
& more on the importance of being registered. Interesting UNHCR said in a statement yest they are present in DCs - so why are they failing to register so many people there? Given it's the first step in trying to protect refugees.…
Drunk militia members turned up at one "official" detention centre in Tripoli this morning & threatened the migrants there with guns. They eventually left, but everyone's a bit shaken by it. #libya
One of the reasons migrants/refugees in detention centres are highly suspicious of Libyans working for aid organisations: 'Human traffickers in Libya are posing as UN staff, says Refugee Agency'…
Also has this: "Following the violent clashes in Tripoli that erupted on Aug 26, when tanks & heavy artillery were deployed in residential neighbourhoods, UNHCR has received reports of atrocities committed against refugees & migrants in Tripoli, incl rape, kidnapping & torture."
A message from a Nigerian who was "released" from a Tripoli detention centre & has made it to Sabha, 640km south, where he thought he'd be safer. Unlike the others I'm speaking to who are refugees & can't, he'd like to return home.
A message from someone else complaining about the food in an official detention centre that's still open: they're currently getting one meal a day atm (pictured), so more than when the fighting started & they were starved for a few days.
From hope to despair 1/2: Loads of UN agencies finally turn up to Abu Salim detention centre today only to not register refugees & instead start bickering among themselves as to who gives the most aid.. #libya #tripoli
2/2: UN officials reportedly told hundreds of migrants/refugees trapped in this Tripoli detention centre they'll only come back if they have permission from the Libyans, despite UNHCR claiming publicly it has access to the centres. Most there still not registered.
More than 100 people reported to have died one week ago in a shipwreck off Libya, according to an @MSF statement just released. I believe this is the eighth incident with 50+ deaths in the Central Mediterranean (leaving Libya) since June.
Serious fighting has erupted again in Tripoli, according to a few sources, despite the ceasefire. Here's a message from one group of refugees in detention:
My latest @IrishTimes: why are so many refugees in Libya's "official" detention centres unregistered?… #tripoli
In a detention centre where more than 3/4s of those from refugee-recognised countries remain unregistered by UNHCR, six hopeless Sudanese escaped yesterday after a visit by UN agencies resorted to staff bickering about who gives the most aid.… #libya
Got some scary news from Abu Salim detention centre yesterday. The detainee who gave birth last week called to say she was going to escape the hospital she had been taken to because they were starving her.
Today, mom & baby were taken back to the centre, after nearly a week away. I've heard from other migrants in Libya that hospitals regularly neglect them as patients yet keep them in too long, they suspect to keep collecting their hospital fees. #tripoli
Protest at UNHCR offices in London tomorrow calling for Eritrean refugees to be evacuated from Libya. #tripoli
Another day without food in Tripoli's Abu Salim detention centre. Those detained there include seven pregnant women & a week-old baby. All returned to Libya under EU policy & locked up indefinitely.
*correction as to when they ate last. They're saying 5am Tuesday, not today. #tripoli #refugees #migrants
Former UNHCR official @JFCrisp on some of the constraints the UN Refugee Agency is operating under… (& see again my report on UNHCR's failure to register refugees in Tripoli:…)
Meanwhile, the focus in Europe is still on stopping arrivals to Italy. From the plenary debate yesterday:
Still no food at this detention centre - & they're coming up on three days without it. But MSF - who have been consistently turning up when people are most in need - brought water.
Just checked in with them and they still haven't got food. Nearly at 3.5 days now. #tripoli #libya
I'm hearing from a source that there was an agreement between IOM & WFP to provide food in Abu Salim centre. It was supposed to start Monday but WFP won't deliver food until a kitchen is installed, & IOM say their engineer can't access the centre. Meanwhile, more than 400 starve.
Refugees in Tripoli's Abu Salim detention centre respond to what the source told me as to the reason they're being starved. I think this is the longest they've gone without food since the fighting started August 26. #libya #migrants
Protest today outside UNHCR in London calling for Eritreans to be evacuated from Libya. #tripoli
Let's talk about the heartbreak & trauma these people have already been through
Nearly three weeks I've been talking to them now. #libya #tripoli
"Mother of children saying our children are crying because of hunger." #eutolibya #tripoli
I'm getting further evidence I can't make public, & speaking to sources in organisations on the ground who are confirming everything.
More than four days without food for more than four hundred people, including children, pregnant women & a newborn baby in Abu Salim "official" detention centre. #libya #tripoli
The manager of the detention centre told the starving refugees the UN won't answer his calls about sourcing food. #libya #tripoli
Food finally came but there's some confusion as to where from. IOM told me they planned to deliver "lunch" the next two days, but the centre's manager told refugees this was donated by a local company that felt sorry for them. #libya
Last week, MEPs wrote to @RefugeesChief & @cochetel, calling on UNHCR to finally register refugees in detention centres, particularly Abu Salim. Here's my report on the desperation there:… Detainees feel the UN has completely abandoned them.
Reading: "The Libyan Coast Guard said they intercepted a boat with some 160 people & provided humanitarian and medical assistance. What they did not say was that they left two women & one child on board & sank the ship.”…
Today's food in Abu Salim detention centre comes courtesy of IOM. After 4.5 days without anything, 400+ detainees have been fed once yesterday & once today. #tripoli #libya
From opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last week:"Migrants in Libya continue to be exposed to unlawful killings, deprivation of liberty, torture, sexual violence, forced labour, extortion &exploitation by both State & non-State actors, in total impunity…
"and it is unworthy of any State to deliberately send men, women and children to face such risks. The Council will be briefed on the human rights situation in Libya later in the session."…
After 4.5 days without food (Tues-Sat), there were three days where detainees in Tripoli's Abu Salim detention centre got at least one meal a day (Sat afternoon-yesterday) #libya
But now the fighting seems to have started out around them again. #tripoli
Here's a regularly updated map monitoring some of the fighting in Tripoli.… #libya "Hostilities in Tripoli continue this morning, so far limited mostly to the southern suburbs."
Refugees in one Tripoli detention centre are actually messaging asking me to first find help for those in another centre. "They need Emergency help. They are passing life more torture than us. I don't want to stand in the death of my brothers even if I'm in difficult condition."
Message from one Eritrean detainee about the EU's role in sending tens of thousands of migrants & refugees back to Libya. #tripoli
While in Tunis the last two days I spoke to a range of people who work in Libya - they all think the fighting in Tripoli will escalate. Meanwhile, refugees returned there by the EU remain trapped. It was strange being just a few hundred miles from everyone I've been messaging.
Today I've been sent a torture video apparently taken in Libyan town Bani Walid, also known by migrants as the "ghost city," where Libyan smugglers hold migrants for ransom. The relatives of the captive in the video were asked to pay $7,200 for his release. 1/2
The captive - who looks Eritrean or Ethiopian- is lying on his front, crying. One man is pouring molten plastic on his back, while another masked man points a gun at him. Near the end they force him to look directly into the camera, presumably so his family can see his face. 2/2
In Tunis I met sources working in Libyan detention centres who said the UN (UNHCR & IOM) are controlling the narrative & soaking up funding for migrants in detention centres, yet their presence on the ground is limited. UNHCR esp has consistently failed to register refugees.
I'm still getting constant messages from refugees desperate to be registered. All they want is their name on a list, simply so there's some proof they exist. Sources working in Libya speculate UNHCR is deliberately not registering, so they don't have to take any responsibility.
One of the weird things about attending the EU's Migration Media Awards in Tunis on Tuesday was hearing a series of EU figures extol about the "sumptuous surroundings" we were in - less than 400 miles from refugees locked up & starving bc of EU policy.
Below are some of the messages I was getting as we sound-checked for @AJStream this evening (watch back here: )
A note on this: it seems very clear there is no full oversight of detention centres, including by the UN. Their access is limited; Libyan authorities lie to them about conditions; they are v short staffed (raising questions as to whether that's on purpose)
& UNHCR is systemically not registering people who are entitled to it. Those in various detention centres I'm speaking to say anywhere between 1/2 and 3/4 of those who should be registered aren't (see my report from last week:…)
Another two days without food or water in Abu Salim detention centre. Last week the 400+ detained there went 4.5 days without food. #tripoli #libya
Hearing a missile hit very close to another Tripoli detention centre yesterday, frighting the refugees inside.
Nearly four weeks after starting this thread I'm in touch with 12+ migrants & refugees who were in Tripoli detention before Aug 26 fighting began, & are now spread out over Libya. Many I can't share details of bc of safety. "By Mighty God power we staying alive"- one just sent me
More reports of refugees escaping from another centre that was supposed to be safer than the one they were in. Hundreds were moved to Zintan from Tripoli's Triq al-Matar a few weeks ago. (See:…)
Rereading Hisham Matar's 'The Return', & jolted to come across this reference to a prison in Abu Salim, the same area where a lot of the refugees I'm messaging are locked up.
I'm in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly. There are a few events & meetings focused on migration & refugee issues - I'll share anything I come across about the current crisis in Libya. #unga #unga2018
I was messaging refugees in Libyan detention again after I arrived here - they said I should put on Jay Z's 'Empire State of Mind'.
Updated UNHCR information, says less than half of people considered persons "of concern" in Libyan detention centres are registered with them.… #libya #tripoli
Here's some information on the conditions in Zintan, the detention centre I was told around 15 refugees recently escaped from.
And here are the number of resettlement places now offered, though many more detainees are desperate for urgent evacuation, as the fighting in Tripoli looks set to escalate.… #libya
I asked Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore for comment on the numbers of minors locked up indefinitely amid fighting in Libya, after being forced back there under EU policy (incl a newborn baby). She said: “We would prefer if children were not placed in detention centres.”
Latest @reuters report on the fighting in Libya: At least 115 people have been killed & 383 injured in month-long clashes between rival factions in Tripoli, Libya’s health ministry said Sunday.…
"So far, calls by the GNA for all sides to uphold a ceasefire agreed on Sept. 4 have fallen on deaf ears."…
Re children being locked up: in Abu Salim detention centre alone, detainees say there are around 20 children under five, one newborn baby & many more teenagers under 18. #unga #unga73 #libya
4.20am in Abu Salim detention centre & refugees are woken by the sound of heavy weapons close to them. They've told me before they always sleep badly at night anyway bc they're so frightened of what could happen. #libya #tripoli
Meanwhile, the last private rescue ship operating in the Central Mediterranean (Libya to Italy route) has had its registration revoked. One person was already dying for every 18 that reached Europe this year. Routes of escape are disappearing.
Many of the refugees currently locked up in Libya have relatives in Europe, desperate for information about them. Here's a message I got this morning from a brother desperate to find out whether his sister is ok.
Messages from another "official" detention centre I can't name because they're afraid of retaliation, where detainees say they haven't slept in six days because of how bad the fighting is. #libya #tripoli #unga
The brother in Europe who contacted me this morning searching for info on his sister named the detention centre he thought she was in. I managed to speak to people there who say she is as ok as any of them are. No one knows what will happen next though.
Today I asked UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour about the situation for migrants/refugees in Libya. She said "in these kinds of extremely chaotic, dangerous situations the first driving principle should be saving lives." #libya #tripoli #unga 1/
She said saving lives included rescuing at sea, though when I asked her abt the EU role & the last Med private rescue ship-the Aquarius-losing its registration yesterday, she said she couldn't comment bc "I’m not sufficiently familiar with the details of the current situation."2/
Arbour said "the entitlement of refugees & asylum seekers to have their status properly determined is critical." She said it's for UNHCR to determine but "when a person wants to make an asylum claim they should be allowed to do that." #libya 3/
When I asked Arbour about why so many refugees in detention centres have never been registered by UNHCR (up to 3/4 in centres I'm in touch with), she said "the situation is not right, I don't know what to tell you" but said she couldn't comment further. /4 #unga #UNGA73 #libya
I asked UNFPA executive director @Atayeshe about refugee pregnant women giving birth while locked in detention centres in Libya. She said "any pregnant woman deserves her full human rights and dignity & it doesn’t matter whether you’re a refugee." 1/
UNFPA exec dir, Natalia Kanem, also said she didn't know enough about what's happening in Libya bt was willing to hear more later. "I believe the concern for the life of the mother & newborn is something enshrined in common will which the definition of human rights represents."2/
Here's Natalia Kanem speaking in New York yesterday. 3/ #unga #unga73
Lots of migrants & refugees have told me about deaths in Libyan detention centres in the months since they've been locked up. Yest I asked about funerals - this detainee said they don't know what happens to bodies & detainee priests who want to accompany them are sworn at. #libya
.@reuters is still describing EU-backed Libyan coastguard interceptions as "rescues". This report says 235 people trying to escape Libya, incl 20 women & two children, were returned there this weekend & almost certainly locked up in indefinite detention.…
Vincent @cochetel, the UN Refugee Agency's special envoy for the Central Mediterranean route, told ANSA in an interview that the situation in Libya has become 'extremely critical,' and that the agency no longer has access to official detention centers.…
Message from one Tripoli detention centre where refugee detainees say they've been forced to drink toilet water because they're not being given anything else. The last month of fighting means already meagre supplies of food & water have totally broken down. #libya
Found a news report referencing the rockets detainees in Abu Salim told me they were woken by at 4am on Monday, terrifying the children (& everyone else) there. "Three grad missiles struck Tripoli’s residential Abu Salim district."…
IMPORTANT: I now have multiple reports from different "official" Tripoli detention centres of refugees being taken out & forced to move or pack weapons. These are all people sent back to Libya under EU policy & now forced to participate in a war they were trying to escape.
Now I'm asking I'm discovering drinking toilet water isn't happening in just one detention centre. Here's a message from another detained refugee:
Here's a video I was sent this morning showing a rare protest in a Tripoli detention centre, where refugees have been trapped by fighting for a month now. They haven't eaten in three days & don't sleep because of the sounds of missiles & gunfire nearby.
I asked UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly Clements (@KellyTClements) about the situation for refugees trapped in detention centres in Libya. She said they're trying to evacuate but access is hard & UNHCR has already evacuated most of their own staff. #tripoli #unga
Apologies for a slight correction, I went over the recording & Clements said *close to 192,000* internally are in need of international protection. Reposting the full answer. #libya
Fifty six refugee serving agencies in the United States, Israel, Egypt & Canada have written to @antonioguterres @RefugeesChief @nikkihaley @SecPompeo calling for the urgent evacuations of refugees detained in Libya. #tripoli
Some have recently died in at least one detention warehouse for lack of food & basic sanitation. Others have escaped & are in hiding or living in the street in search of protection from traffickers and militias. There have been credible reports of rape."…
"We have also received numerous reports that the individuals lack food, medical attention and basic physical security. They could starve, die of disease, be shot, or become enslaved by militias or traffickers. We are told that the situation is getting more desperate by the day."
Woke up today to messages that - despite a new lull in fighting - refugees are losing hope. Heavy rain yesterday exacerbated many illnesses. In Abu Salim several pregnant women are close to term & one became very ill. #libya
More information on the new ceasefire announced in Tripoli:… The last one, agreed on Sept 4, lasted only a few days. For migrants & refugees in detention centres there's also a risk a cessation of fighting means fighters go back to abusing & targeting them.
My latest for @TheNationalUAE on the desperate situation for detained refugees after one month of fighting in Tripoli.… #libya
At this stage, I feel like I'm witnessing the mental disintegration of refugees I've been talking to daily for more than a month now, via Whatsapp. #libya #tripoli
"Do you remember the last time you ate two meals in one day?"
#libya #tripoli #refugees
One of the amazing things over the past month has been seeing the resilience of refugees who have been through so much - the messages they send when I say things like "stay safe" or "thinking of you all." From yesterday:
Worth highlighting that - with the ceasefire in place - detainees in Libyan centres are again begging for UNHCR to register them. Less than one quarter are registered in some centres - UNHCR said the obstacle is the fighting but they've been waiting months…
"Thank God because you are free" - message from a young Eritrean man currently locked in a detention centre in Libya.
New figures released from UNHCR - but they don't explain why so many of those locked in "official" detention centres have never been given the chance to register.
A MSF petition calling for their rescue ship the Aquarius to be allowed resume its work, & for European states to establish an effective rescue model in the Mediterranean, has received more than 55,000 signatures. #libya
New @RefugeesChief @refugees statement: “Reinforcing search and rescue capacity on the Central Mediterranean and disembarkation in places of safety, has to be everyone’s goal."
In September, there were the highest percentage of deaths ever in the Mediterranean, as fighting raged in Tripoli: almost one in five died or went missing at sea while trying to escape Libya for Europe.
The CNN report on slave markets in Libya last year got worldwide attention, but people are still being sold. Here's messages I'm getting from someone in Sabha, Libya, who says he's witnessed them firsthand in the past few weeks. 1/
Africans are being sold for amounts between $1,100 and $2,200 now, according to my source. He said the lack of rescue ships in the Med & Tripoli fighting now means migrants are kidnapped off the street & sold, rather than bought from traffickers like before. #libya 2/
My contact in Sabha, Libya, says children are among those being sold as slaves, or forced labour, among Libyans. Women sold into domestic work are sometimes raped and abused. Some sold are forced to loot or pack weapons. #libya /3
I'm hearing that an Eritrean man in his twenties died in Tariq al Sika detention centre this morning. "I can't control my feelings right now. Who will be responsible for the death of my brothers?" a friend messaged me. Trying to get more info. #libya
I have a second confirmation of the death of a young Eritrean man held in detention in Tripoli. Apparently he had been sick for a while. Sources not sure with what but many detainees suffer from TB & other infectious diseases bc of the poor & cramped conditions they're held in.
The man who died today apparently tried to get to Europe before, but was one of the tens of thousands who were intercepted at sea & returned to Libyan detention by the EU-funded coastguard. #tripoli
Still no sign of UNHCR coming to register them, despite the ceasefire, so detainees in one detention centre are making their own list of who's inside. These are the ages of some of the females: women, girls, toddlers & babies. So struck by how young they are. #libya
In two Tripoli centres I'm in touch with, detainees are now paying management to buy them food & have given up on Libyan authorities/the UN/ aid agencies supplying it. The money's sent by families often already bankrupted or in large debt from paying smuggler ransoms. #libya
So many are underage in the lists of detainees I've been sent. Again: these are people from refugee-producing countries desperate to be registered w UNHCR. They know it might lead nowhere but still want their names taken so there's some record they are alive & locked up in Libya.
More ages below. I'm being asked now daily whether they should try & escape detention & cross Tripoli to reach UNHCR's office, where UNHCR advertised they're registering. However, others who went there were reportedly arrested by Libyan police & forced to pay $300.
Correction to this: that's the conversion I was getting for 1,500-3,000 dinars online, but apparently in Libya it's now equivalent to $300-$600.
UNHCR finally showed up in Tripoli's Abu Salim detention centre today. They said they'll register detainees (incl many children) next week but added that it wouldn't help as there are no resettlement places for them & UNHCR aren't responsible for them anyway, acc to source there.
UNHCR telling detained refugees in Libya they can't evacuate them. A reminder again that almost everyone here was returned to Libya under EU policy aimed at stopping people reaching Europe.…
MSF's petition looking for support for the Aquarius, their search & rescue ship which was operating in the Mediterranean until its licence was revoked, now has 220,000+ signatures… #libya
Message from Abu Salim detention centre last night. They say they hear fighting near them again. #tripoli #libya
I was on @BBCFooC today talking about the situation for detained refugees/migrants in Tripoli, & this whole thread. Listen back here:… #libya
Looks like the second of eight pregnant women who were being held in Ain Zara detention centre, in Tripoli, is just about to give birth. #libya
Update: a second baby girl was born to detainees in Abu Salim yesterday. Both births have been bittersweet, coming shortly after news of the death of other detainees. One of the mothers told me all she wants for her daughter is "a normal life" in "a perfect place, a safe place."
Just catching up on yesterday's UNHCR Libya Facebook live & I'm shocked how they're spinning what happened during Tripoli clashes. Refugees/migrants were starved, moved to even worse locations... 1/
slept on the streets outside UNHCR offices while no one showed up for days, arrested when they escaped centres out of desperation to be registered with UNHCR, UNHCR said they had evacuated most of their staff so couldn't help... (video: 2/
UNHCR had registered less than 1/4 in some detention centres before the clashes. They say here they were advocating for detainees to be "released"- I have reports that some ran directly into gunfire/were abducted after "releases" bc they had no idea where to go for safety. 3/
If they were supplying food, why did some Tripoli centres go as long as five days without providing food & water, forcing refugees/migrants to drink toilet water to survive. Why not mention those people & that suffering?… 4/
.@cochetel said they had no access to the detention centres a few weeks ago, but yesterday UNHCR LIBYA Chief of Mission Roberto Mignone claimed "we managed to reach certain detention centres even during the worst period of clashes." 5/
Tonight I'm getting messages from someone saying they're in one of the detention centres I hadn't been in touch with before. They say the situation is very grim - no food, drinking toilet water, no medical assistance. #libya
'Eritrean Asylum Seekers in Israel Protest the EU: Help Our Brothers Trapped in Libya'… - recent protests have also happened in London & Germany.
"So what’s happening to vulnerable mothers and children stranded, for instance, in Libya? What about elderly people? Who is taking care of them? Are medical conditions being treated?" - @ReginaCatrambon…
Yesterday, UNHCR resettled 32 refugees from Tripoli to Romania. However, thousands more in detention centres are in need, many still never registered by the UN.
In Abu Salim detention centre, less than 1/4 are registered. They were told last week it'd happen today, & today it'll be tomorrow. Before fighting broke out they were told similar. Every day they tell me they're considering escaping bc "UNHCR is playing games with us."
More good news: 135 refugees evacuated from Libya to Niger. I know at least some of these were from detention centres & registered w UNHCR about a year ago. However, many more detained still waiting all year just to be registered.
Response from a refugee in a Tripoli detention centre when I told him about the Niger evacuation: "It's so few. 0%"
UNHCR & IOM have released a statement "appealing to European leaders to tackle Mediterranean deaths", but don't mention the deaths in detention centres happening after the EU-backed coastguard forces refugees back to Libya & into them.
The last death in detention I've been told of was just two weeks ago, after a man in his twenties died from a sickness, caused or exacerbated by the conditions & lack of medical attention, according to two people who knew him. #libya
These UNHCR/IOM statements are important, because they impact the way both politicians & the media talk about what's happening. The focus shouldn't be just on deaths in the Med, bc that justifies the EU policy of paying the Libyans to intercept/"rescue" refugees trying to escape.
Once again: Libya is a war zone & refugees are being forced back into indefinite detention where they're being abused, starved, raped, forced to labour, sold again to smugglers and - yes - dying.…
This statement completely shuts out the voices of thousands of people - men, women, children, even babies - who are locked up in horrific conditions as a direct result of EU policy.
Some may have noticed I'm posting fewer direct messages here. As the fighting has reduced, the risks to my sources for speaking out have escalated. The problems remain the same though: minimal food & medical attention; no UN registration; serious desperation.
Contact from someone who says they're in another Tripoli detention centre: this would be the fourth I'm in touch w people in. Problems are all the same: v little food, regularly drinking toilet water, desperate for UN registration which hasn't happened in the months they're there
After talking for almost an hour he apologised for "stressing" me. “We lost a lot of hopes now. In our minds we already died.” Like many others he says he was at sea for 8+ hours before the boat was caught by the Libyan coastguard & those on board were taken back. #tripoli #libya
Another report of a death in detention. #libya #tripoli
& the landlord of the husband of one of the women in detention has got in touch with me today too. The husband is in Germany. "The wife is in a very critical condition both physically and emotionally & has said that she doesn`t see a way out any more and that she wants to die."
The landlord also asked: "How can we get his wife out of that camp? She is not registered by UNHCR." & "Would it be possible for him to apply for family reunification?" (I'm looking into this.)
As in other crisis refugee situations, families are being tragically separated here.
Big news today from Abu Salim: refugees say UNHCR finally began to register people there. More than 3/4 of detainees had been waiting up to 10 months for this. However, at the end of the day they say 200 still aren't registered, hopefully tomorrow though.
A reminder: this was the group who created their own comprehensive list of all detainees - name, age, nationality - a few weeks ago, just so there was some record of who was there. Yesterday one detainee told me no one sleeps at night bc they're so worried about being sold out.
UNHCR back again today in Abu Salim, continuing to register refugees (men, women, children) there. I got a delighted email from the landlord of the Germany-based husband of one detainee saying she was among those registered yesterday.
Another day, another emergency. A new refugee got in touch last night. 200+ Eritreans apparently left without food & water for the last eight days. I've passed the details on to international orgs & I'm hoping they get help very soon. #libya #tripoli
An appeal from Tripoli's Qasr bin Ghashir detention centre, where roughly 300 detainees have been waiting for registration since June. "When we are registered UNHCR will know us, where we are, how many people we are. It is important for us. Maybe they'll think of us." #libya
2/ A detainee in the same centre says they're also very cold after a change in weather, and are still wearing the same clothes they've been wearing for almost four months. "We need emergency support, especially clothes & food."
Adding to this thread: my report on deaths in Libyan detention centres.
- Refugees moved to Zintan, during the recent clashes, say four young detainees have died there in the past month, because of the abysmal conditions.
- More are dying elsewhere.…
Back in Tripoli, a Somali detainee has died after dousing himself in petrol & setting himself on fire. A witness told me it happened shortly after UNHCR officials told him he had little or no chance of being evacuated to a safe country.
Message tonight from Zintan detention centre, where I've been told four people died in a month.
"We closed in small hall for long time.. even the sun.. we can't feel it.. you can't imagine the life we live, life after death." #libya
EU-Libya cooperation on stopping migration has led to a "shipwreck of human values" the Danish Refugee Council (@DRC_dk) has said, as it launched an appeal to request an urgent change in EU policy.… 1/
Re Zintan dc: I've also been told there are three toilets for roughly 800-1,000 people in Zintan detention centre - one of the reasons the conditions are so poor & people's health is suffering. #libya
Messages today from a Somali in Tripoli talking about the horrible circle he's found himself in: escape a detention centre; try to get to sea; get caught by Libyan coastguard; get put in a detention centre; sold by owners to smugglers; made to pay to go to sea; caught again...
From this perspective it means the smugglers are making extra by charging the same people multiple times to try & cross the Med. A very few are still making it, leaving a glimmer of hope - e.g. one man from Abu Salim DC recently escaped & made it to Italy.
Detainees were begging to be registered because they want legal paths to safety & a way out of this cycle of abuse & exploitation, but over the past few weeks, as they've been told evacuation is incredibly unlikely, they're again considering other options.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Sally Hayden
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!