‘Someday you are going to hear that all the refugees have died’

Listen: Migrants from across Africa and the Middle East are being detained in appalling conditions in Libya

A woman picks up her belongings from among rubble at a detention centre that was hit by an airstrike in the Tajoura suburb of Tripoli on July 3rd, 2019. Photograph: REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

A woman picks up her belongings from among rubble at a detention centre that was hit by an airstrike in the Tajoura suburb of Tripoli on July 3rd, 2019. Photograph: REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

 

On this week’s World View podcast reporter Sally Hayden talks to Foreign Editor Chris Dooley about the plight of migrants from countries across Africa and the Middle East who, while trying to make their way to Europe, have instead been detained in Libya.

Some of the detainees in camps, located near the capital Tripoli, have talked to Sally about the appalling conditions they are forced to endure, including forced labour and chronic food shortages.

“People are dying from tuberculosis, going without food for days, drinking dirty water. Families are separated. According to the UN, there are more than 1000 children under 18 in the centres”, says Sally.

But worse was to come. Last week air strikes on one detainment centre killed dozens of migrants, including women and children, in an act the UN is describing as a potential war crime.

Rebel militias are blamed for the attack, while it is alleged the Tripoli government had placed weapons caches in the centres, using the detainees as human shields.

One former detainee who escaped the centre in May talked to Sally about chronic food shortages and the exploitation of detainees through forced labour and radicalisation. He predicted further bloodshed.

“Someday you are going to hear that all the refugees have died. If you are not believing me today, the next time, after the victims happen . . . you will believe me,” he said.

Also on the podcast, Peter Goff reports from Hong Kong where protesters remain sceptical and defiant despite city leader Carrie Lam describing the proposed extradition law at the heart of the trouble “dead”.