African migrants stuck in Libyan centre in poor conditions

Hundreds of migrants from across Africa wait in a centre in the Libyan city of Misrata without aid and health care and say they will not give up until they reach Europe.

MISRATA, LIBYA (FEBRUARY 28, 2015) (REUTERS) – An official at a migrant centre in the Libyan city of Misrata warned of a looming “disaster” because of a lack of funds and infrastructure to care for the people travelling from across Africa to try and reach Europe.

The head of the Misrata branch of the Department to Combat Illegal Migration said on Saturday (February 28), that the hundreds of migrants were waiting at the centre in the coastal city in poor conditions.

“There is no medical care in this centre. There is almost no aid coming from either the Libyan government or from international aid agencies. There is no specialised medical team here at all,” said Mohammad Baqqar.

Some of the migrants have tested positive for HIV or hepatitis.

The centre houses the migrants in what used to be a school.

Some 100 people are assigned to each of the eight rooms and the migrants share 10 lavatories.

Baqqar said the centre was struggling due to a lack of funding.

“We have not received any funds for the past three months and the number of illegal immigrants is increasing. If we stop working, I am sure that a disaster will happen. If this centre is shut down there will be a disaster,” he said.

He added that the centre was under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry.

Many of the migrants were detained in trucks heading for the region of Zuwara in the east of the country, according to the Department to Combat Illegal Migration.

It is a popular destination for migrants seeking to reach Europe by sea.

Some of the migrants at the centre said they preferred to stay rather than return to their own countries.

“I do not wish to return to my native country. We have no country, our homeland is starvation and death and killing. If you send us back they will send us to jails and then they will send us to fight in the wars. I do not want to go back to my country. I want to go to Europe. All of us here want to,” said one woman who did not want to give her name or nationality.

A Somalian woman said the migrants in the centre would find their way back to Libya, even if they were returned home.

“If they send me back to the Somalia, we will come back again, using the same route until we get to where we want. There is trouble in Somalia, we are tired of the war there. I will not go back. If you let us stay in Libya, we will work in Libya. We will go anywhere but we do not want to go back to Somalia,” said the woman.

The centre has 260 male immigrants from Senegal, 238 from Eritrea, 17 from Somalia, 43 from Gambia, 28 from Niger, 34 from Sudan, three from Egypt, one from Bangladesh, five from Chad, two from Burkina Faso, six from Ghana and one from Nigeria.

There are 64 women at the centre, mostly from Eritrea and Somalia.

Another concern, Baqqar said, is that the centre lacks security personnel.

It has no clinic and the only ambulance does not work.

Rubbish was piled in the grounds of the centre and raw sewage water pooled on the ground beside the building.

The European Union border cooperation agency said in February that record number of migrants look set to flow into Europe this year, with the lack of order in Libya making it an ideal environment for traffickers, who pack people fleeing war and poverty in the Arab world and sub-Saharan African onto rickety boats that set sail for Europe — mainly aiming for nearby Italy.