Dutch Minister horrified by conditions in Libyan detention centers

Sigrid Kaag

Sigrid Kaag. Photo: Rijksoverheid

Minister Sigrid Kaag of of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation wants detention centers for asylum seekers in Libya to close as soon as possible, she said after paying a visit to such a center in Tripoli. She was horrified by the conditions in which asylum seekers live in these centers, RTL Nieuws reports.

Libya is the most used crossing point for African asylum seekers and migrants trying to flee to Europe. This year around 6 thousand people crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe. The European Union wants to prevent a new refugee crisis and is trying to make good agreements with Libya about stopping migrants.

To prevent asylum seekers and migrants from crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, Libya detains them in detention centers – a kind of prison where currently thousands of asylum seekers and migrants are locked up. The conditions are horrible. “They are a kind of prison. Asylum seekers must not be detained. They must be cared for in a humane way”, Kaag said after visiting a detention center in the Libyan capital.

Kaag wants Libya to close these kinds of prison and turn them into open asylum centers to which the UN and other emergency relief workers have access. “We have called for closure and alternative shelter. That is also supported by UNHCR and also the government: they too see that it can’t continue like this.”

The Dutch Minister isn’t confident that good agreements or a migration deal with the country is possible. She therefore wants to improve conditions for the people in these detention centers. “We give support to the UNHCR, the UN organization for refugees, and we ensure that they can return to their country of origin as soon as possible. Those who can’t return, who have refugee status must be resettled as soon as possible.”

Kaag spoke to a number of migrants in the centers. “Many say: there is improvement. But it is a terrible situation. They despair. They do not want to go home, but also not stay here.” She wants to speed up flights that return migrants to their home countries. “There must be more speed in that, the EU puts political pressure behind this and the Netherlands can contribute to that.”

The EU pays a large sum of money to the Libyan Coast Guard, which focuses on stopping migrants trying to cross the ocean. So far this year, the Coast Guard stopped 3,600 migrants on the Mediterranean. But that does not stop asylum seekers and migrants from coming to Libya to try to cross to Europe. According to the UN, currently at least 700 thousand people are stranded in Libya.