More than 12,000 people are officially detained in 27 prisons and detention facilities across Libya, with many more in “inhumane conditions in facilities controlled by armed groups or ‘secret’ facilities,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a report obtained by The Associated Press Monday.
Guterres said in the report to the UN Security Council that the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has documented an alarming amount of cases of arbitrary detention, sexual violence, torture and other international law violations in facilities led by various groups, including the government.
“I remain gravely concerned by the continuing violations of the human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Libya,” he said in the report.
Guterres noted that thousands of individuals in the official statistics provided by Libyan authorities could not challenge the legality of their detention. Thousands more detainees are being held illegally, the AP reported.
“Female and male migrants and refugees continued to face heightened risks of rape, sexual harassment and trafficking by armed groups, transnational smuggles and traffickers as well as officials from the Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration, which operates under the Ministry of Interior,” the UN chief reportedly said.
Guterres noted that multiple detention centers mentioned in the report are run by the Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration, including the Mitiga prison facility. He said the UN mission received “credible information on trafficking and sexual abuse of around 30 Nigerian women and children,” the AP reported.
Many of those detained are refugees or migrants traveling across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe and were ordered to return to Libya by the nation’s coast guard, the outlet reported. Guterres said that as of December 14, the Libyan Coast Guard blocked 30,990 migrants and refugees from traveling and ordered them back to the country, which is “almost three times the total number of people returned in 2020 (12,000 people).”
Guterres said that more than 1,300 have died or gone missing during the voyage.
The UN previously called out crimes against humanity in Libya in October, after the nation detained more than 5,000 migrants, many of them women and children. Guterres said in the report these expulsions “did not respect the prohibition of collective expulsion,” and the forced return of people “placed many asylum seekers and migrants in extremely vulnerable positions.”