“In 2014 we sent more than 4,000 refugees to these detention centers”

Mohamed Albggar is the Associate Director of the Deportation Office in the Libyan Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration

This post is a piece of evidence in our open investigation into the disappearance of a group of at least 243 refugees in 2014. We’re asking for your help to find them: Please take the time leave notes, responses, highlight important information or dig in to see what else you can discover.

— Interview conducted by Mohamed Lagha. Translated from Arabic.

Do you have report or lists of the migrants and refugees who enter detention centers in Libya?

Mohamed Albggar: From 2014 we have the names of migrants who entered our detention centers, including those who were deported to their countries. That doesn’t include people from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia, as you know—because of the bad situation in these countries we can not send them back, and we do not have any way to deal with their countries. In Libya there are now rules to deal with refugees. Since then I become the associate of the head of deportation office. When I was the head of Misrata detention center, we would only hold migrants from Niger and Egypt, and send others from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia to the detention centers in Gharyan and Guwaiya. In 2014 we sent more than 4,000 refugees to these detention centers—men, women, children and the elderly. We have not got any official reports about what happened to them there, but unfortunately I can say that all of them went to the Mediterranean Sea.

How can they go out from these detention centers?

There is a security problem in the detention centers, and I do not know what that is. Maybe it is gangs attacking the detention centers—they are based in areas far away from cities and from security forces. The Ministry of the Interior has not provided any good protection for the detention centres.

Are all the detention centers under state control?

Yes, for the ones under the control of Tripoli government are from Al Jufra to the Tunisian border, Gharyan and Nalut. We have a big deal with the detention centers east of Libya, and they are also suffering from the same problem.

Are there other detention centers out of the state’s control?

Actually there is no any detention centre in Libya out of state control, because if anyone breaks the law, we punish them under the law of our office in Tripoli.

You mean to say that there is no place with migrants in Libya that isn’t under the control of Tripoli?

No, there are lots of places out of the state’s control.

Where exactly?

I will make it more clear for you. In Tripoli there are some people turning this into a criminal business. Sometimes they capture migrants or they steal their belongings. This is a big issue as there are lots of armed gangs.

Can you give me an example of where are these places?

The detention center in Zliten detention center is under our control, but after Zliten, and along the coast to Zuwarah, there are places where smugglers keep migrants and make deals with African smugglers. They even sometimes use small houses on the beach to keep migrants in until they get them boats and they leave the coast.

Do you know anyone called Jamal Al-Saudi, or any other smugglers?

We have some names, but we can not give you them. We have documents detailing their criminal activity and smuggling, but it is not possible for me to talk about it.

Have you heard about refugees being sold into slavery or used as forced labor?

Yes, there are lots of people who they sell migrants and use them as workers with no pay. Unfortunately we have people in Libya who are doing this.

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