Updated: March 6, 2021
Full details on the horrific airstrikes on a migrant detention center in Libya are only beginning to come out. First they bombed the detention center full of migrants with almost all of them Africans and blacks. And when some survivors tried to flee, guards funded by the European Union assailed them with gunshots, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid said, quoting reports it had received from eye witnesses.
In the end, the wednesday’s pre-dawn strike in Tajoura, east of Tripoli, killed at least 44 migrants and wounded more than 130.
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However, despite the international outrage following the airstrikes, aid groups said there were no plans to evacuate the surviving migrants.
“We are not aware of plans to relocate the migrants that remain in Tajoura,” AP quoted Safa Mshli, an International Organization for Migration spokeswoman, as saying.
“Migrants intercepted or rescued at sea should not be returned to Libya, where they will face the same inhumane conditions.”
The Libyan government blamed the Libyan National Army or LNA, which is at war with militias allied with a U.N.-recognized government in the capital Tripoli.
AP said the migrants who survived the deadly airstrikes said Thursday they had been conscripted by a local militia to work in an adjacent weapons workshop, adding that “the decision to store weapons at the facility in Tajoura, to the east of Tripoli, may have made it a target for the self-styled Libyan National Army, which is at war with an array of militias allied with a weak, U.N.-recognized government in the capital”.
The LNA, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, was quoted as saying that it targeted a nearby militia position but denied striking the hangar where the migrants were being held.
Although the Libyan government blamed the LNA, whose forces control much of eastern and southern Libya and has received aid from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Russia, AP reported that the U.N. and aid groups meanwhile blamed the tragedy in part on the European Union’s policy of partnering with Libyan militias to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean Sea to seek a better life in Europe.
Critics of the policy say it leaves migrants at the mercy of brutal traffickers or confined in detention facilities near the front lines that often lack adequate food and water.
On Thursday, the U.N.’s migration agency reported that a boat carrying 86 migrants from Libya sank in the Mediterranean Sea overnight and only three people were confirmed as survivors, highlighting some of the dangers facing migrants as they travel hoping for better lives.
The International Organization for Migration said 82 were missing from the shipwreck late Wednesday off the Tunisian city of Zarzis. Earlier this week, another boat from Libya made it to the Tunisian port of Sfax with 65 people on board, AP reported, adding that around 6,000 migrants, most from elsewhere in Africa, are being held in Libya’s detention centers after being intercepted by the EU-funded coast guard. In Tajoura, hundreds of migrants are held in several hangars next to what appears to be a weapon cache.