Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: A cry for help

Editorial: A cry for help


 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: A cry for help

We recently spoke to a number of young Eritreans being held inside Zintan detention centre in Libya and others living on the streets of Tripoli. Their words were a cry for help.

Many of those who are attempting the dangerous crossing from France to the UK fled the same horrors in their home countries as these young men, and faced the same inhumanity as they travelled through (or were sent back to) Libya as they sought to reach the safety of Europe.

We know that the conditions in which they are living are already widely known and widely reported. We also know that the situation is a complex one and that many organisations face restrictions on what they can do. But we believe there is more that can be done, especially when people and organisations come together.

Jade (not his real name) has been held in Zintan for more than three years. He told us how 25 people have died inside the detention centre, where there is very little medical support and a number of TB cases. He said there’s just one organisation that visits three times per week, but they are very restricted in what they can do.

According to Jade, there’s also very little to eat. He described the situation as “starvation”. 

“We eat pasta once a day,” he said. “In one small cell 24-25 people sleep. There are no windows for air in the cells and we have skin problems due to lack of hygiene and no change of clothes. We suffer from depression – we are very, very depressed. 

“We need safety, we need all agencies to come and help. We must get free from this area, get free from abuse; then we need to go to safe countries, anywhere, we must leave Libya, it is hell for us.”

Jade told us there are around 380 people in Zintan, 90 of whom are under 18. There are also women being detained. When there is fighting outside, they can hear the guns and bombs. 

We were sent photos, many of them too horrific to look at, from inside Zintan. We see more than 20 people crammed into a tiny cell; migrants bound in chains and bleeding; men and boys skeletally thin in filthy clothes. 

We also spoke to 34-year-old Petros (not his real name), who is destitute like many other migrants on the streets of Tripoli. They are not allowed to work and Petros told us that there is very little food and not enough tents or blankets.

He said that around 2,200 people were recently released from detention centres due fighting. Many are now living on the streets, including around 145 women, 300 children and 65 babies. He said that some of the women are being raped and there are not enough people to look after the children.

“Life in Libya is difficult,” Petros said. “Some of us have been here for three years. There is no food, no help, no clothing. There is a lot of mental illness.”

We call on everyone – Governments, NGOs, individuals – to do whatever is within your power to improve the situation for migrants in Libya, a situation that contravenes the principles of human dignity, equality and freedom that we in Europe value. 


This editorial had been adapted from a letter sent to a number of international NGOs, the European Commission and relevant UK Government ministers.


TOP IMAGE: Zintan detention centre (sent to Migrant Voice by one of the migrants with whom we're in contact)