The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says they have reliable information that human traffickers are posing wearing clothes with the UNHCR logo at smuggling hubs and disembarkation points in Libya. UNHCR workers are often present at disembarkation points in Libya to provide food, water, clothes and assistance to refugees and immigrants.
The UNHCR says although they are opposed to the detention of immigrants and refugees they have staff present at Libyan detention centers to monitor conditions and look for and help the most vulnerable immigrants. However, UNHCR says they do not participate in the transport of immigrants to detention centers.
Smugglers are reportedly impersonating Agency workers to take advantage of the most desperate and vulnerable immigrants and capitalize on the growing slave labor market in Libya.
In early 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) documented active “‘slave markets’ tormenting hundreds of young African men bound for Libya.”
“Migrants who go to Libya while trying to get to Europe, have no idea of the torture archipelago that awaits them just over the border,” said Leonard Doyle, chief IOM spokesman in Geneva. “There they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value.”
The UNHCR says the report of impersonations of their staff comes just after conditions in Libya took a dramatic turn for the worse in recent weeks.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) brokered a ceasefire after violent clashes erupted in Tripoli on August 26 when tanks and heavy artillery were deployed in residential neighborhoods.
The UNHCR said they received reports of rape, kidnapping and torture against refugees and migrants in Tripoli. Thousands fled the detention centers to avoid the violent conflicts.
The agency is calling for the end of the use of detention centers, and the immediate use instead of the Gathering and Departure Facility in Tripoli which can hold up to 1,000 refugees and asylum-seekers. The facility “will serve as a platform to find safety in third countries, and which will be managed by the Libyan Ministry of Interior and by UNHCR,” according to the agency.