The detention camps of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in Libya are sheds, Arjan Hehenkamp, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Netherlands, said upon his return from his mission.
The NGO provides medical assistance in centres under the control of the government in Tripoli, but it is in fact in the hands of militias, with whom he must constantly negotiate access conditions.
“These centres are essentially hangars for humans, where migrants are packed by the dozen, without air, malnourished and without care, subjected to the violence of the networks of smugglers. People are abused, worn, sold,” he told a press conference.
Some have arrived recently in the hope of winning over Europe, others have lived in Libya for a long time, where oil wealth and the pan-Africanism of Muammar Gadhafi presented the image of a country where you could earn a living.
In these centres “people have lost any form of control, they are at the mercy of their captors. They cannot speak, but their eyes are pleading,” he added.
For him, however, it is through European efforts that southern tribes will be pushed to block trafficking humans and the Libyan coastguard to prevent boats from reaching international waters.
Describing a country plunged into the chaos of the militias who see migrants as “tickets on legs”, the head of MSF insisted: “It is simply impossible to imagine that the Libya of today could be part of a solution.”
And the efforts of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to take some migrants back to their home country are sceptical: “Talking about voluntary returns is hypocritical. No one can make a voluntary choice in these centres. But anything is better than to stay there.”