UNHCR denies kicking out of two refugees killed outside Libya facility


The perils to the lives of refugees in Libya was highlighted anew when two Eritrean men were killed last Thursday, January 09, after being forced to leave a packed “gathering and departure facility” (GDF) managed by the UN refugee agency.

According to media reports, the UN had pressed the men to leave its facility due to overcrowding, but the agency denies the reports in an email to the Guardian.

The UN set up the GDF in 2018 as an “alternative to detention”, but when the numbers of refugees being assigned to them increased, the UN began offering money to new arrivals to encourage them to either go home or find accommodation elsewhere.

In practice, many refugees use the money to rent a house in Libya and then depart by boat.

“The current situation makes the management of GDF unsustainable,” the UNHCR wrote. “Furthermore, overcrowding is preventing us from bringing vulnerable refugees from detention centres to the GDF for safety before departure from Libya. UNHCR fully understands that it is difficult for people to accept this situation; however we are limited in the options we are able to offer with the current number of available evacuation and resettlement places offered by states.”

Three refugees told the Associated Press that the two Eritrean refugees who were killed were among dozens forced out of the GDF 10 days ago.

Although the UNHCR has confirmed that the victims were initially staying at the GDF, the agency said the pair had left voluntarily and did not take cash help.

“No one is being pushed or forced out of the GDF,” the agency wrote. “It has operated as an open centre, where people have freedom of movement and can leave at any time.”

The UNHCR said on Friday it was “deeply saddened” by the deaths of the two Eritreans. According to the UN agency, “the incident appears to have been a robbery attempt at the accommodation they were living in, which is in an area of Tripoli well-known for crime and criminal activities”.

GDFs are intended to house refugees until they are resettled elsewhere or voluntarily repatriated. Unlike detention centres, refugees can leave the GDFs of their own volition. Libyan detention centres are nominally overseen by the UN-recognised government in Tripoli and are often run by officials involved in human trafficking.

According to the UNHCR, the GDF facility is housing nearly 900 migrants, despite having been built for 600.

According to the New Arab, the pair was shot inside their accommodation and the circumstances were unclear. (Source: The Guardian)