TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libyan officials allowed at least 100 migrants to walk free on Tuesday from a detention center in the capital Tripoli that was hit by a deadly attack last week.
The air strike, on July 3, killed 53 people and injured 130 others, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest death toll on Twitter. It occurred as eastern forces under Khalifa Haftar keep up a ground and aerial offensive to wrest control of Tripoli from the U.N.-backed government.
Officials at the center, run by the U.N.-backed government in an eastern suburb of Tripoli, said they took the decision after the migrants protested over not being included in an evacuation list by the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR).
Only 55 of the migrants were on the UNHCR list, said a local official at the detention center who requested not to be named.
“We opened the gates and let them go,” he told Reuters.
A resident from Tajoura, a suburb in eastern Tripoli, said migrants were seen marching from the detention center.
It was not immediately clear where they intended to go.
Following their departure, about 110 other migrants remain at the center, lying in the open air and using mattresses for shelter from the sun, the official said.
“They don’t want to go back inside the hangar as they’re afraid of any further air strikes,” the official added.
Haftar’s forces and the U.N.-backed government have blamed each other for the July 3 air strike.
Libya is one of the main departure points for African migrants fleeing poverty and war to try to reach Italy by boat, but many are picked up and brought back by the Libyan coastguard, supported by the European Union.
Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Editing by Gareth Jones