'It’s a migrant crisis compiled and made worse by a weapon proliferation crisis that’s growing worse and worse.'
NEW YORK – At least 44 migrants detained near the Libyan capital of Tripoli were killed in an airstrike this week, an attack a U.N. envoy said “clearly could constitute a war crime.”
Libya has long served as a transit point for migrants hoping to reach Europe, but as countries like Italy implement strict immigration rules in an effort to keep migrants an ocean away, thousands fleeing conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa find they have nowhere to go.
Philippe Nassif is Amnesty International’s advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“They’re in these detention center facilities mainly because they tried crossing into Europe and were caught and sent back, and with the encouragement of the Italian government and some other European governments, they’ve been essentially forced to remain in these detention center facilities because the Libyans aren’t able to take them in because there is no real government in Libya and there is an active conflict.”
Which brings us to Tuesday’s attack, which is being blamed on aerial forces commanded by General Khalifa Haftar. Haftar’s militia – known as the Libyan National Army – is waging an all-out assault on Tripoli using weapons supplied by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
“It looks like they have either deliberately targeted these facilities or they have no idea what they’re doing with some of the new weapons that they’ve been given.”
Nassif says Amnesty International warned for months that migrants in Libyan detention centers were at risk of getting caught up in the fighting. Now, that nightmare has come true.
“It’s a migrant crisis compiled and made worse by a weapon proliferation crisis that’s growing worse and worse.”
To avoid more senseless deaths, Nassif says up to 2,000 detained migrants still trapped in Tripoli need to be resettled, and preferably to another country. But even that could be just a Band- Aid on a larger problem. Unless fighting in Libya stops, the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees scattered elsewhere in the country could soon find themselves caught in the crossfire, too.