UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said it was dismayed at reports of smugglers and traffickers posing as UNHCR staff in Libya.
UNHCR called, in a report on its website on Saturday, on Libyan authorities for action against all criminals trying to target desperate refugees and migrants.
“Reliable reports by our sources and refugees suggest that traffickers and smugglers are impersonating UN staff, including UNHCR, at different locations in Libya.” UNHCR added.
It said that those criminals were spotted at disembarkation points and smuggling hubs, using vests and other items with logos similar to that of UNHCR.
UNHCR indicated that the information comes from refugees who report having been sold to traffickers in Libya, and subjected to abuse and torture, including after having been intercepted at sea.
“In Libya, UNHCR and its partners are present at official disembarkation points to provide lifesaving humanitarian and medical assistance to refugees and migrants, including food, water, and clothes.” It explained.
It also remarked that the situation of refugees and migrants living in urban areas or detained in Tripoli has dramatically deteriorated in recent weeks due to heavy clashes.
UNHCR also added that upon reports from detention centers and “atrocious acts against migrants in Tripoli during the recent clashes, it remains opposed to the detention of refugees and asylum-seekers, “but it is still, however; present in places where refugees are located to provide them with life-saving assistance.”
“UNHCR strongly calls for alternatives to detention to be put in place, including the immediate use of the Gathering and Departure Facility in Tripoli, which 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. The facility has the capacity to host 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers and is ready for use.” The UNHCR’s report adds.
UNHCR said it is further calling for strong institutional action in Libya to hold smugglers and traffickers accountable.