Skip to main content

UN warns women, child migrants unsafe in Libya

Libya is a major departure point for people seeking to irregularly reach Europe, and the journey can be deadly.
African migrants stage a demonstration outside the headquarters of the UN Refugee Agency in the Siraj area of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Women and children migrants in Libyan detention centers are at risk following recent mass arrests, the United Nations’ body for children, UNICEF, warned Tuesday night.

Approximately 751 women and 255 children were among the thousands of migrants and asylum seekers detained in Libya recently. There are also five unaccompanied children and at least 30 infants being held in poor conditions at the detention centers in the capital, Tripoli, according to UNICEF.

“Children are held under devastating and inhumane conditions in these detention centers,” said UNICEF’s acting Libya representative, Cristina Brugiolo, in a statement sent to media. “We can assume the actual number of children held may be much higher, as many boys are reportedly placed in cells with adult males.”

One reason the conditions are so bad is that detention centers are well over their capacity. Libya’s largest of such centers, Al Mabani, is currently holding more than 5,000 people, which is four times its official capacity. UNICEF reiterated calls for all children to be released from detention centers in Libya, per the statement.

Libya is a major destination for migrants, many of whom want to sail to Europe. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said last month that there were 597,611 migrants in the country, including 3,860 in detention centers and 42,210 registered refugees. There was therefore an increase by more than 1,000 people in detention centers since last month, per UNICEF’s figures.

The journey from Libya to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea is additionally dangerous. Earlier this month, the dead bodies of 17 people washed up on a Libyan beach.

A UNICEF official told Al-Monitor in April they seek the release of detained children to any environment that has better conditions than the detention centers.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

Text Alerts - Be the first to get breaking news, exclusives, and PRO content.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial