Published: July 08, 2019
An aid worker from Vancouver says the international community needs to act immediately to solve what he says are "desperate" conditions in a migrant detention centre in Libya targeted in a deadly airstrike last Tuesday.
Craig Kenzie, a project coordinator with Doctors Without Borders, spent nine months in Tripoli working as part of the medical team assisting migrants in the city's five detention centres.
He was on his way back to Vancouver when Tuesday's airstrike hit, killing at least 53 people and leaving more than 130 injured.
Kenzie describes the conditions in the centres as "very dangerous and inhumane."
"[There is] inadequate access to water, sanitation and space in these [centres]," he said.
The centres contain a broad range of people, the majority of whom are asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa. Some come from as far away as Syria or Bangladesh.
Many had been trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe, but were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard — with the approval of the European Union — and handed over to the authorities that run the detention centres.
Refugees and migrants wait to be rescued by members of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, after leaving Libya trying to reach European soil aboard an overcrowded rubber boat, north of Libyan coast, Sunday, May 6, 2018. (Felipe Dana/file photo/Associated Press)
"We don't agree that these people should be in these detention centres to begin with. They haven't committed a crime," Kenzie said.
"There aren't really any ways out of it unless you consent to go back to the war-torn country or wherever you are from, where you were likely facing conflict."
The other issue, he says, is that the migration centres have been set up very close to the front line in Libya's ongoing civil conflict since the fall of former leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Kenzie calls the July 3 airstrike entirely predictable.
"These are civilians that have been kept by the local authorities in extremely close proximity to military targets," he said, adding his organization had repeatedly warned of the possibility of such a tragedy.
"The international community really needs to ask itself, if not now, when?"
Listen to the full interview on CBC's The Early Edition:
Craig Kenzie, a project coordinator with Doctors Without Borders, describes conditions in the Libyan migrant detention centre destroyed in ongoing conflict in the country. 10:25
There are some things that can be done immediately, he says.
The first, he says, is to get people out of the existing detention centres in Libya because it is not safe. Secondly, people need tostop being intercepted and returned to Libya.
"[Migrants should be taken to] a place that's a port of safety, that should be some place where there isn't open conflicts going on inside the city, where there is an asylum process that they can pursue to have their asylum claim or refugee status evaluated and where there's a due process for them."
According to Federico Soda, director of co-ordination at the Mediterranean office of the International Organization for Migration, there are approximately 650,000 migrants in Libya right now. source