Our work in Libya

Caring for thousands of migrants and refugees detained in dire conditions

Hundreds of people were held in the main warehouse in Zintan detention center before it was emptied in June.
Libya 2019 © Jérôme Tubiana/MSF
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How MSF is fighting COVID-19 in Libya

In Libya, we support the Ministry of Health at a COVID-19 testing site in Tripoli, as well as provide COVID-19-related trainings to medical and health care staff. We continue to reinforce IPC measures in detention centers in Tripoli, Zliten, and Zintan—as much as possible given the inhumane conditions there.

What is happening in Libya?

In 2019, renewed conflict in Libya exacerbated the suffering of migrants and refugees trapped there without protection or assistance. Many who tried to flee across the Mediterranean Sea were forced back.

According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, there are more than 355,000 internally displaced people and nearly 50,000 registered refugees in the country. Learn how you can best help in Libya and other countries.

consultations in 2019
started on treatment for tuberculosis

How we're helping in Libya

In Libya, in 2019, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated men, women, and children who had been arbitrarily detained in official detention centers run by the Libyan authorities, as well as those who had escaped clandestine prisons run by traffickers. Our teams also provided care to people who had been intercepted at sea by the EU-funded Libyan coastguard and forced back to Libya, the country they had been trying to flee. 

In detention centers in Tripoli, Misrata, Khoms, Zliten, and Dhar El-Jebel, MSF medical teams mainly treated medical complaints resulting from, or aggravated by, the dire hygiene conditions. The overcrowded facilities do not have enough drinking water, latrines or ventilation, and detainees have little access to medical assistance. We treated people for scabies, lice and fleas, as well as infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), which spread easily in squalid conditions. In Dhar el-Jebel, we started an intervention for 500 people detained in the center, after 22 died from TB. In addition, our teams treated patients for malnutrition resulting from the lack of food in the centers and carried out mental health activities, supporting people living with the trauma of indefinite detention.


MSF projects in Libya

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Most migrants and refugees are believed to be detained in unofficial prisons, out of reach and out of sight. In Bani Walid, we provided medical assistance to people who had managed to escape captivity, many of whom had been tortured. Please donate to support our work in Libya and other countries around the world now.

On July 2, an airstrike hit the Tajoura detention center and instantly killed at least 53 people—the deadliest attack on civilians since the start of the conflict. We sent ambulances and a medical team to assist survivors, including mental health staff to support people left in limbo and in fear for their lives.  

In port areas of Khoms, our teams offered general health care to people who had been forcibly returned to Libya, including minors and asylum seekers, and to survivors of shipwrecks.  

The closure of detention centers led to increasing numbers of migrants and refugees living on the streets. More and more people were left stranded and vulnerable to human trafficking, violence, forced labor, and exploitation. As the conflict intensified and the deterioration of public health services started to affect Libyan nationals, we also conducted outpatient consultations in Misrata. 

As well as continuing to denounce the unacceptable situation in official and unofficial detention centers, MSF called on the UN to scale up its intervention in Libya to provide protection and assistance for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants trapped there. We also advocated an immediate end to forced returns, and ultimately, the evacuation of all migrants and refugees from a country at war to a place of safety.