Libya remains fragmented by a decade of conflict and political instability. The breakdown of law and order, the collapse of the economy, and fighting have decimated the healthcare system.

Almost all people who attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea pass through Libya. Between January and mid-August 2021, the EU-funded Libyan Coastguard intercepted over 22,000 people at sea and returned them to Libya. This has resulted in an increase in the number of people arbitrarily detained in detention centres, often in violent, inhumane conditions. 

MSF provides medical care and food and hygiene kits to people held in detention centres in the country’s northwest.

Migrants and refugees living outside detention centres are exposed to life-threatening risks, such as being held captive by trafficking networks in clandestine jails. Our teams provide healthcare to migrant communities outside of detention – including those who have escaped – in Tripoli and Bani Walid.

MSF also supports the Ministry of Health in its tuberculosis response; we provide technical support in Misrata and Tripoli, and provide diagnosis and treatment to patients in two facilities. We provide ante- and postnatal care to mostly Libyan women in Bani Walid.



Libya Head of Mission, Beatrice Lau

Dire conditions for migrants and refugees in detention centres in Libya

Our returned Head of Mission, Beatrice Lau describes the conditions for migrants and refugees in detention centres in Libya. MSF suspended activities in the detention centres in Tripoli in late June 2021, as a response to the level and rate of violence observed towards migrants and refugees held indefinitely in Libya’s detention centres. Despite this latest decision, efforts to intercept, forcibly return and arbitrarily detain men, women and children in detention centres in Libya are ongoing.

Our activities in 2021 in Libya

Data and information from the International Activity Report 2021.

MSF IN LIBYA IN 2021 Doctors Without Borders (MSF) continued to assist refugees, asylum seekers and migrants trapped in a cycle of abuse and arbitrary incarceration in Libya. Many who tried to flee were forced back.

In western Libya, our teams provided medical and mental healthcare to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in detention centres, identifying vulnerable people and referring patients requiring specialist care to hospitals in Tripoli. Since February 2021, there have been continual reports of incidents of ill-treatment and violence in the centres, resulting in severe physical and psychological harm. Some were witnessed first-hand by our staff. On 8 April, one person was killed, and two were injured in a shooting in Al-Mabani detention centre. As a consequence of these incidents, we suspended activities in Al-Mabani and Abu Salim detention centres between June and September.  

More than 621,000 migrants are living in communities across the country and are frequently subjected to violence and arbitrary mass arrests. In October, at least 5,000 people were violently rounded up across Tripoli by government security forces and detained in centres that were already overcrowded. For several months during 2021, MSF teams ran community-based mobile clinics in Tripoli, providing basic healthcare and referrals for vulnerable migrants.   

In 2021, the Libyan coastguard intercepted at least 32,425 migrants in the Central Mediterranean Sea and returned them to detention centres in Libya. At disembarkation points, our teams offered first aid and basic medical care, as well as emergency referrals and follow-up care for patients in critical condition. 

Elsewhere in the country, MSF teams provided medical and social services for refugees and migrants in Zuwara and general healthcare and referrals for victims of torture and trafficking in Bani Walid. We also ran a tuberculosis (TB) programme in Misrata and assisted the national TB programme with technical support, diagnosis, treatment and adherence counselling, including a TB unit until it was stopped and taken back by the Ministry of Health COVID-19 taskforce response. 

IN 2021

MSF Cultural Mediator Nejma helps a survivor on one of the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats
International Women's Day

Tales of Women at Sea

Patient and Staff Stories 8 Mar 2023
MSF Flag

Hundreds of migrants detained after mass arrests in Tripoli, Libya

Press Release 11 Jan 2022
MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Med Sea, 10 found dead
Mediterranean Migration

10 more lives lost on the world’s deadliest migration route

Press Release 18 Nov 2021
Women detained at female-only Sorman detention centre, around 60km west of Tripoli, Libya. Detainees receive irregular rations that are distributed once or twice day if not at all.

Thousands of people detained and left with no medical care after mass arrests

Press Release 6 Oct 2021
A woman with burns detained in Sorman at female-only detention centre around 60km west of Tripoli, Libya. She is assisted by another detainee.

MSF returns to Tripoli detention centres after 3 months of suspension

Latest News 30 Sep 2021
Women and children detained at female-only Sorman detention centre, around 60km west of Tripoli, Libya.

Pushed back to Libya & forced into inhumane detention centres

Latest News 24 Aug 2021