The news come from several sources and it has been confirmed to JLP by some refugees that are located in the GDF. Those more affected are the refugees who arrived to the GDF on their own, forcing the UNHCR to accept them in, when the organization was planning on leaving them outside. The group of refugees that survived the bombing of Tajoura entered the GDF in this way in July, walking to the center without any help from UNHCR. About 400 people, 100 of which were minors (according to IMO), arrived from the Abu Salim prison in October.
Refugees have also reported that those who are affected by tuberculosis do not receive any treatment and that many of those who are sick do also not receive any food. These actions can only worsen the already bad health situation of the UNHCR center.
UNHCR has not denied the refugees’ claims of starvation. Charlie Yaxley, a UNHCR representative, has underlined in a tweet that “refugees are not being denied food with no other option”, recognizing that starvation is a reality. The other options evoked by Yaxley are actually reduced to only one alternative: leaving the center. UNHCR offers about 280€ per person to those who enter the so-called “urban scheme”, which implies being registered with UNHCR but living outside of the GDF, in Tripoli.
At the end of the day, it seems clear that the UNHCR’s message is the following: “if you want to eat, you need to leave”. This is also what the GDF staff has explicitly told the refugees, announcing that starting from the first of January, UNHCR will not grant any more food to the people in the GDF.
Refugees are clearly scared of being exposed to human traffickers and the civil war in Tripoli. However, UNHCR has left them little choice, as they announced that resettlement requests will only be taken into consideration for those registered in the above-mentioned “urban scheme”.
Despite the fact that migrants are being deprived of their rights, only few residents have decided to go for now. Tripoli is an extremely dangerous place for asylum seekers.
Risks are exacerbated by the civil war between general Haftar, supported by Putin, and Al Serraj, supported by the majority of western countries and Turkey. The recent failure in the negotiations may lead to a “bloodshed” in Tripoli, in the words of a UN representative. The war worsened in April 2019, when Haftar launched an attack that is still ongoing, in order to take Tripoli from Al Serraj.
Why is the UNHCR, the UN agency that is supposed to protect refugees, denying access to food and medicines to get rid of asylum seekers?
The GDF, which was inaugurated a year ago, was supposed to be only a temporary stop for asylum seekers that were meant to be resettled. Nonetheless, it became a detention center, where migrants are blocked for months in a legal limbo inside overcrowded rooms.
UNHCR has been accused of corruption and collusion with some human traffickers that manage other detention centers where migrants are imprisoned. On multiple occasions, UNHCR has received allegations of abandonment of vulnerable asylum seekers, excluding them from the GDF and not getting them evacuated from detention centers.
Difficult living conditions, lack of personnel control and lack of access to the detention centers all add up to one conclusion: it is clear that UNHCR cannot assist the refugees in Libya in accordance to its mandate. Why the agency does not admit that? The answer ought to be sought in the agency’s sources of funding. The policies of UNHCR in Libya are aligned with the interests of the European Union in the externalization of the borders rather than with the protections of refugees’ rights.