Hundreds of migrants in Libya flee detention, cite hunger

PARIS (AP) – Hundreds of migrants have fled a detention centre in coastal Libya and crowded overnight around a United Nations (UN) facility, saying they were denied food for weeks.

Around 450 people left Abu Salim detention centre late on Tuesday. Two of the migrants, as well as activists, said they were forced to beg for money from families to pay police to buy them food. Those who couldn’t pay went hungry.

The migrants spoke on Wednesday on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety. They walked about 90 minutes through the city of Tripoli, according to Tarik Lamloum, a Libyan activist.

The UN refugee agency said the facility is already overcrowded, with about half the 800 people inside arriving informally, including many from another detention centre that was hit last summer by an airstrike.

The Libyan government agency that runs the detention centres blocked the migrants from entering, the UN said.

The government-linked centres for migrants are rife with abuse and many, especially those in Tripoli, get caught in the crossfire of the country’s civil war.

With increased fighting and reports of torture, Europe’s policy of supporting the Libyan coast guard as it intercepts people fleeing Libya has come under growing criticism.