Last week a Dutch delegation led by Migration Minister Mark Harbers visited several camps in Libya. But his trip did not include Zintan, a detention centre with an atrocious conditions, seldom visited by international dignitaries. This information has been received from inside Zintan detention centre.
Over 700 refugees have been imprisoned in Zintan, of whom 165 refugees have been there since October 2017. The detention camp is 180 km from Tripoli. The refugees report that the situation is dire: there is little food; hygiene and their health is very poor.
It is reported that in the last five months 17 refugees detained in Zintan have died, among them one young woman who was driven to commit suicide. Most are said to have died of TB; thirteen of them were Eritrean.
The refugees say that the issue most worrying the refugees is that they have no information about their fate.
One of the refugees, has appealed for international protection. He was imprisoned in Eritrea before fleeing the country and is in real danger. His name is being kept confidential for his safety.
47 refugees have been moved from Zintan to another camp – Gharyan where they are still imprisoned. The refugees there are locked-up and held incommunicado. Four people are reported to have died in Gharyan in the last five months from TB.
What action from UNHCR?
The UN refugee agency has been made aware of the circumstances in which the refugees are being held. The detainees say they have tried to contact UNHCR, but with little success. The refugees are asking why the UNHCR has not visited the Zintan camp.
The plight of the Eritreans was underlined by the findings of the UN Deputy Human Rights Commissioner, Kate Gilmore. Speaking in Geneva last week she that Eritrea’s human rights record has not changed for the better since the government signed a peace agreement with Ethiopia last year, formally ending a two decades-long border conflict. Ms Gilmore was participating in a U.N. Human Rights Council interactive dialogue on the current situation in Eritrea.
Kate Gilmore said Eritrea has missed a historic opportunity because the government has not implemented urgently needed judicial, constitutional and economic reforms. She explained that the continued use of indefinite national service remains a major human rights concern.
“Conscripts continue to confront open-ended duration of service, far beyond the 18 months stipulated in law and often under abusive conditions, which may include the use of torture, sexual violence and forced labor,” she said.