GENEVA (Reuters) – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Saturday recommended that thousands of refugees who escaped from detention centres amid clashes between militia in Tripoli be directed to a facility in the capital to help them to safety.
The UNHCR recommended “the immediate use of the Gathering and Departure Facility in Tripoli, which will serve as a platform to find safety in third countries”.
The facility is ready to use and can host 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers and is to be managed by the Ministry of Interior and the UNHCR, the agency said in a statement.
Recent fighting pitted two of the capital’s largest armed groups – the Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigades and the Nawasi – against the Seventh Brigade from Tarhouna, a town 65 km (45 miles) southeast of Tripoli.
Refugees and asylum seekers in the city are exposed to atrocities including rape, kidnapping and torture, the UNHCR said.
One woman said that unknown criminals kidnapped her husband and then raped her and tortured her one-year-old baby, the agency said.
It also said the detention centres from which the refugees fled remained at risk of being hit by rockets.
Conflicts among militias are at the heart of a conflict that has divided Libya since an uprising which forced leader Muammar Gaddafi from power seven years ago.
The UNHCR also called for action to hold smugglers and traffickers accountable after receiving “reliable reports” that they impersonate UNHCR staff at disembarkation platforms and migrant hubs.
“UNHCR information comes from refugees who report having been sold to traffickers in Libya, and subjected to abuse and torture, including after having been intercepted at sea,” it said, adding that investigations of these allegations are ongoing.
(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; editing by Jason Neely)