The United Nations has called for immediate action to save lives in Libya, after more than 50 migrants lost their lives in an air-strike on the Tajoura Detention Centre in the east of Libya’s Tripoli.

In a joint statement, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and International Organisation for Migration director general Antonio Vitorino appealed to the international community to step in before more lives were lost. 

“Another tragedy like Tajoura cannot be allowed to happen again. The protection of human lives must be the overriding priority,” the statement reads.

As of Thursday, the Tajoura Detention Centre was closed, and some 400 attack survivors have been moved to another facility which the UNHCR described as “badly overcrowded”.

Read: Malta shocked at Libyan air-strikes 

Meanwhile, many other refugees and migrants remain in detention elsewhere in Libya where suffering and risk of human rights abuses continue.

“A safe, managed process of release, with proper information on available assistance, is essential for all,” the statement read.

The two international organisations called for the 5,600 refugees and migrants currently held in centres across Libya to be freed and their protection guaranteed.

“For this, countries must step forward with more evacuation and resettlement places. In addition, migrants wishing to return to their countries of origin should continue to be able to do so. Extra resources are equally essential,” the statement read.

Detention of those disembarked in Libya after being rescued at sea also had to stop. Instead, practical alternatives should be considered, such as allowing people to live in the community or in open centres.

For the approximately 50,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers currently living elsewhere in Libya, as well as for the estimated 800,000 migrants, more help is also required.

Every effort should be taken to prevent people rescued on the Mediterranean from being disembarked in Libya, which cannot be considered a safe port, the statement reads.

Any assistance and responsibilities assigned to relevant Libyan entities should be made conditional on no one being arbitrarily detained after they have been rescued and guarantees of human rights standards being upheld.

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