Clashes that erupted between rival militias on the 27th August have killed more than 50 people, injured many more, and left thousands of civilians trapped indoors in Libya’s capital, according to health officials.
The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli declared a state of emergency on Sunday 2nd September. On Monday, armed groups had obstructed and cut off roads leading to their own positions, “blocking access to aid and relief” and trapping families in the area, according to emergency services spokesman Osama Ali.
A mass jailbreak from the the Ain Zara prison by 400 prisoners has added to the chaos of nine days of fighting. The prisoners reportedly broke out of the prison after being terrified to hear themselves surrounded by the sounds of gunfire in the city.
The UNHCR has called on all parties to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure and allow safe passage for those seeking refuge in safer areas.
In Libya, there are currently more than 184,000 internally displaced people in need of humanitarian assistance, along with a further 368,000 people who have returned to their former homes.
The vast majority – 95% – of refugees and migrants who attempt to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean have come via Libya. European leaders have been accused of prioritising an approach that seems tough on immigration, over one that responds in a responsible and sustainable manner to the crisis in Libya and the central Mediterranean.
After the EU-Turkey deal in 2016, which led to a 97% drop in new arrivals to the Greek islands from Turkey, people started looking for new routes in to Europe. Libya, with its Mediterranean coastline and proximity to European waters, has become a hotspot for smugglers and people traffickers.
Conditions for refugees and asylum seekers here are unbearable: people are often held in arbitrary detention in appalling, inhumane conditions. Videos of human beings being sold in open slave markets have been shared across the world.
In spite of this, Italy and Malta – two of the closest European countries to Libya across the Mediterranean sea – have largely shut their ports to charity rescue boats. Instead, European governments assist the Libyan coastguard and, according to NGOs working in the Mediterranean, “deliberately condemn vulnerable people to be trapped in Libya, or die at sea”.