Hundreds of women and children among those arrested during the raids in the city of Gargaresh.
A major crackdown in western Libya has resulted in the detention of 4,000 migrants, including hundreds of women and children, according to authorities.
The raids took place in the western city of Gargaresh on Friday as part of what authorities described as a security campaign against undocumented migration and drug trafficking. The Interior Ministry, which led the crackdown, did not mention that any trafficker or smuggler has been arrested.
Authorities said on Friday that 500 undocumented immigrants had been detained, but on Saturday they reported that the number had reached 4,000.
Gargaresh, a well-known migrant and refugee center, is located about 12 km (7.5 miles) west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The city has seen several waves of raids against migrants over the years, but activists described the latest as the fiercest yet.
“We hear that more than 500 migrants, including women and children, have been arbitrarily detained and are at risk of abuse and mistreatment,” Dax Roque, Libya director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a statement on Friday.
“Migrants and refugees in Libya, particularly those who do not have legal residence in the country, often run the risk of being arbitrarily detained. Torture, sexual violence and extortion [are] rampant in Libyan detention centers, ”the statement added.
Photographs released by the Interior Ministry showed dozens of migrants sitting with their hands handcuffed behind them or being carried away in vehicles.
Alarmed that more than 500 migrants, including women and children, have been detained today and arbitrarily detained in Libya. https://t.co/Y3XEiji2dA
– Dax Roque (@dax_roque) October 1, 2021
The prisoners were herded at a facility in Tripoli called the Collection and Return Center, said police Colonel Nouri al-Grettli, the facility’s chief. He said the migrants have been distributed to detention centers in Tripoli and surrounding towns.
A government official said authorities would “deport as many as possible” of migrants to their countries of origin. He said that many of the detainees had lived without documents in Libya for years. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to report to the media.
Chaos in the oil-rich nation
Since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has become the dominant transit point for people fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East, hoping for a better life in Europe.
Human smugglers have profited from the chaos in the oil-rich nation and smuggled people across the country’s long border with six nations, before putting them in ill-equipped rubber boats on risky journeys across the dangerous route of the Central Mediterranean Sea.
Tarik Lamloum, a Libyan activist working with the Belaady Organization for Human Rights, said the raids involved human rights violations against migrants, especially in the way some women and children were detained. He did not elaborate.
He said many of the detainees have been registered with the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) as refugees or asylum seekers. UNHCR did not immediately comment.
A few thousand refugees and migrants are being held in official detention centers, some controlled by armed groups, as well as an unknown number in squalid centers run by traffickers.