More than 200 migrant children attempting to reach Europe, have been intercepted at sea, and returned to Libya in 2020. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) stated that “almost all of them have been arbitrarily detained in Tripoli after their return”.
In a report, the IRC said that the majority of those children were Somalian, Eritrean, and Sudanese, and aged between 12-15. More than a quarter were unaccompanied minors, as well as infants under one year of age. 20% were children with disabilities, or children at risk due to their primary caregiver being found ill.
When the shooting incident took place at the Al-Khoms disembarkation point on Monday night, fifteen children were present. They, along with all other children who have been returned from sea, are in urgent need of protection. However, most have been sent to live in overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres where they are now at even greater risk – not only of violence, and abuse, but also of COVID-19.
Tom Garofalo, the IRC’s Country Director for Libya, said that no one should be detained in Libya’s detention centres – least of all a child. Garofalo added: “since March this year, we’ve provided emergency medical care to over 3,800 people who were seeking safety in Europe but were brought back to Libya from sea. This included over 200 children, who were found in terrible conditions when they returned, with some having been at sea for weeks. Some have seen fellow passengers die before their eyes. People who have been through so much need support, especially psychosocial care, but instead they are sent to detention centres where support is extremely limited”.
He also called for an immediate end to arbitrary detention, and for those brought back from sea to receive all necessary healthcare, and emotional support. Referrals must also be made for those who need further assistance or specialized services.