Situation Report

Migrants and refugees returned to Libya exceeds 10,000

By the end of October, almost 10,400 migrants and refugees who have tried to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean have been intercepted or rescued and returned to Libya by the coast guard, according to IOM. This is more than for all of 2019 (recording 9,200 people intercepted and returned to Libya). In addition to those that have been returned to Libya, at least 570 people are known to have drowned making the attempt.

This month saw a significant reduction in the number of people intercepted at sea compared to previous months, which follows a seasonal trend as fewer boats depart Libya due to deteriorating weather conditions with the coming winter. The number of migrants and refugees intercepted or rescued and returned to Libya in October 2020 was half as many as those recorded in the same month last year, with 521 migrants and refugees this year, compared to 1,131 people in 2019.

In late September and October, there were a number of incidents that highlighted the risks for those migrants and refugees who remain in Libya. In late September, more than 300 migrants, including women and children, were arrested in Sabratha and detained in an unofficial detention site. The UN and humanitarian partners were able to negotiate access to the site to provide assistance.

The Ministry of Interior’s Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) has closed a number of official detention centres along the coastal areas in the west. The UN and partners have been supporting the most vulnerable of those migrants, persons of concern and refugees to find shelter in urban communities and providing them with additional basic assistance. According to UNHCR and IOM, as of the beginning of November, almost 2,400 people, 12 per cent who are women and 27 per cent who are children, are being held in official detention centres in Libya.

However, many more are being held in unofficial sites to which the UN and humanitarian partners do not have access. The humanitarian community in Libya continues to urge for greater steps by the authorities against smugglers and traffickers and for finding alternatives to detention.