Gambling for a better life across the Mediterranean

Hundreds of migrants, captured during their attempt to cross to Europe, are held in Libya's detention centres.

Francesca Mannocchi, Alessio Romenzi | | Humanitarian crises, Middle East, Africa, Migrants, Libya

Libya's coasts continue to be packed with migrants trying to leave the country for passage across the Mediterranean Sea.

On May 18 European Union ministers, in response to large scale emergencies, decided to launch an air and sea mission in Libya that could destroy the human traffickers' boats that transport people across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Just last week the Libyan Coastguard rescued 700 migrants from five rafts with unsafe standards. These migrants have been detained in the Alguaiha detention centre, that currently holds 400 men, women, and children, many of whom are from Eritrea, Somalia and Niger.

The men are held in group cells, each containing up to 60 people. They are allowed to exit their cells only to eat a meagre meal, always under the watchful eye of guards armed with plastic and metal batons.

Al-Zawiyha detention centre, meanwhile, is located near Tripoli and houses 821 adult men and adolescent boys. They are also locked in large and unclean cells, each with as many as 100 people, without enough space to lay down at night.

Many of the men are sick with scabies and malaria. Due to the war in Libya, it has become too risky for doctors to reach this isolated facility.

Some of the detainees said they were held by the traffickers for three months in a cave, before they were able to depart for Europe. 

The raft broke shortly after they left the coast, they say. Though they lost everything during their initial attempt to reach Europe, many say they are planning to ask their families for money to try to cross the sea again.

One detained migrant said that every attempt to cross the sea is a gamble with their lives; a gamble they are willing to make.

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