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Massinissa Benlakehal

Hundreds of refugees 'facing torture' inside Libyan detention centre

The hundreds of migrants rescued are being detained in the Al-Nasr detention facility [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 May, 2017

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56 Algerians and 400 Moroccans remain in danger after being held in Libya's al-Nasr detention facility in al-Zawiyah.

Libyan coastguards have intercepted more than 450 people at sea attempting to reach Europe's southern shores using makeshift boats.

Hundreds were rescued from the Mediterranean on Friday morning, but are now detained in Al-Nasr detention facility in Al-Zawiyah.

According to information obtained by The New Arab, 56 of these migrants are Algerian nationals while more than 400 others are Moroccans.

The Algerian group mainly comprises young men and two women, originating from a small city east of the Algerian capital, and first arrived in Libya's Al-Zawiyah in early May.

"We [have been] in jail since Friday morning," an Algerian migrant told The New Arab in a phone conversation, adding, "our conditions are so bad as we rarely have access to food and medicine.

"We waited for three weeks in a safe house provided by the Libyan smuggler awaiting to set sail but they intercepted us while at sea," the Algerian explained.

The man who spoke to The New Arab says his wife and another woman were part of the group of Algerians who desperately tried to reach Italian shores.

"They arrested us, along with 400 Moroccans, at sea and now we're afraid and scared for our lives as the guards 'play' shooting at us in order to frighten us," he says.

It is not clear yet whether other nationalities, particularly from sub-Saharan countries, were also intercepted during the operation.

The Al-Nasr detention centre is located around 50 minutes' drive west of Tripoli. It is well known by humanitarian aid organisations operating in the area, mainly for allegations related to ill treatment of detainees.

It is not clear if the smugglers' boat was still within the North African country's territorial waters when the arrests took place.

According to the UN support mission in Libya, conditions in the detention centre are inhumane, with severe overcrowding, shortages of food and other basic necessities, and no access to medical care.

Following interception at sea, house raids or identity checks, says UNSMIL, thousands of migrants and refugees are arrested and detained in Libya for migration-related offences.

"They face torture and other ill-treatment in centres run by the Department of Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) and by armed groups," the UN mission reported.

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