In a sad turn of events, the Libyan government is considering closing all migrant detention centers. This has happened after an unfortunate air strike. Confirmed media reports say that the air force of Gen Khalifa Haftar has kept on with overnight bombardment of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, mounting raids on the international airport.
The decision for closure comes after it was reported that guards shot at detainees trying to flee the air strike attack. Almost 53 people are reportedly dead.
There were two airstrikes in the early hours of Wednesday morning, one hitting an unoccupied garage and the other hitting a hangar housing about 120 refugees and migrants.
Former British diplomats in Libya feel sure that Haftar’s air force was responsible for the strikes. Many diplomats believe Haftar’s airforce had clearly signaled it was prepared to take greater risks in targeting perceived military sites of militia backing the GNA.
Reports, including from UN agencies, suggested guards forced the refugees to stay in the Tajoura detention center after the first strike hit the garage, only for the second missile to hit the hangar.
“There are reports that following the first impact, some refugees and migrants were fired upon by guards as they tried to escape,” the UN report said. The UN-recognised government of national accord (GNA) has accused the force led by Haftar of mounting the air raid. Haftar launched a military assault on the capital on 4 April in an effort to oust the GNA, which he claims is supported by terrorists and Islamists.
The GNA interior minister, Fathi Bashagha, said on Thursday his officials were discussing closing all detention centers and releasing the refugees and migrants for their own safety.
At the UN in New York, US diplomats blocked a move to set up an independent inquiry into responsibility for the airstrikes. They said they could not yet back a British-drafted statement, expressing concern about its call for a ceasefire.
US policy towards Haftar’s efforts to seize the capital by force has been beset by inter-agency disagreements in Washington and lobbying by both sides in the civil war that has raged off and on in Libya since Col Muammar Gaddafi was ousted with the help of Nato forces in 2011.
The EU, UN agencies in Libya, Britain and Italy had been leading calls for an investigation into Wednesday’s attack that might eventually lead to war crime charges.