'Unimaginable': Mediterranean shipwreck survivors 'sent to bombed Libyan detention centre'

By Natalie Huet  

Most of the survivors of the worst Mediterranean shipwreck so far this year have been transferred to a Libyan detention centre that was hit by a deadly airstrike this month, according to the UN refugee agency.

The UNHCR says it’s concerned about their safety and is calling for their release. Medecins Sans Frontieres told Euronews the move was “unimaginable”.

Up to 150 men, women and children are feared to have died on Thursday after a wooden boat capsized off the coast of Libya. More than 130 people were rescued by the Libyan coast guard and brought back to the mainland, near Tripoli.

The UNHCR says 84 of those survivors have now been taken to Tajoura detention centre, a centre near the frontline of Libya’s deadly civil war where at least 50 people were killed and more than 100 wounded by an airstrike at the beginning of this month.

“The mere idea of sending these people, who have experienced such a traumatic experience, to detention centres — and to a detention centre that we know has been subjected to an airstrike — is just unimaginable,” MSF Humanitarian Affairs Adviser Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said in an interview on Euronews Now.

MSF’s teams were at Libyan disembarkation points where the survivors of Thursday’s shipwreck landed, to provide them with medical care and psychological support. “People are really shocked, as you can imagine. Some of them lost family members,” Sahraoui said.

MSF also used to regularly provide healthcare services in Tajoura detention centre, including on the day it was hit by an airstrike. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said the July 2 attack was the second to target the centre and that the building should now be evacuated, not taking in more people.

“Libya is not a safe port of disembarkation, and the Italian authorities know very well that it’s not a safe port of disembarkation: there’s an ongoing conflict raging in the country, the conditions of detention are disastrous,” she said.

“It makes me angry that in spite of everything that’s happening, in spite of the attack on Tajoura, in spite of ongoing the conflict, you’d have politicians still pretend that Libya is a place of safety,” she said.

You can watch the full interview in the video player, above.

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