By Callum Paton.
Tripoli, 7 December 2013:
UNHCR has said it has seen no improvement in conditions for refugees who have fled to Libya. It described them as still living in overcrowded camps with inadequate food and medical assistance, sometimes enduring physical abuse from guards.
The UN refugee agency visited three detention centres at Garabulli, Khoms and Sabratha during November, inspecting them and distributing aid.
In Khoms detainees complained of physical abuse.
Speaking to the Libya Herald, Emmanuel Gignac, chief of the UNHCR mission to Libya, said he felt the problems arose: “because there is no proper system in place. There need to be proper centres, resources and infrastructure, and the last has not been maintained”.
He explained: “The individuals working in the detention centres need to be exposed to international norms of behaviour towards detainees, but this will take time. I don’t think it is intentional. They just don’t know. This is part of state-building and this is the real issue.”
The UN report focused specifically on refugees who had been displaced from the conflict in Syria. There are currently 15,898 of them in Libya and when this month, the UNHCR officials visited Sebha for the first time, to their surprise they discovered and registered 250 more Syrians. Apparently drawn to the south by lower living costs, said Gignac, Syrians refugees arrive at the Salloum border crossing with Egypt, making their way to Sebha through Benghazi.