Two migrants were killed and around 19 people were injured when a detention centre in Tripoli was attacked by gunmen, according to reports.

The victims, housed in the Qasr Ben Ghashir detention centre hosting some 980 migrants, appears to have been caught up in a Tripoli battle which is spiralling out of control, Times of Malta is informed. 

In a statement, the UNHCR said the situation is still fluid and details about what sparked a group of gunmen to charge into the centre and open fire on asylum seekers is still unknown. However, reports say two people were killed in the shooting. 

"We are working with partners to provide assistance if access is granted to the area given the ongoing conflict," the UN Refugee Agency said.

The clashes, which have raised fears of a worsening conflict in Libya, began after the commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, ordered his forces to seize Tripoli from the UN-recognised rival Government of National Accord  on April 4.

Mark Micallef, senior fellow from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, said the area has been one of the main axes of the ongoing war south of Tripoli since fighting erupted.

Libyan fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) run as they fire their guns during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.Libyan fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) run as they fire their guns during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.

It is a densely populated area which, along with places like Aziziya and Ayn Zara has have seen fierce fighting, including the use of missiles targeting residential neighbourhoods.

"The detention centre is very close to the fighting and migrants are caught up in a conflict where the frontlines keep changing. This makes the situation even more precarious for the migrants stuck inside," he said.

"For a number of days now there have been rumours that some migrants have been forced to fight. This is still unverified but in a war where both sides of the conflict have recruited foreign (sub-Saharan) mercenaries it's easy for information like this to lead to the targeting of a recognisable facility such as Gasr Ben Gashir."

UNHCR said it continues to closely monitor the situation in all detention centres with a view to continue to relocate the most vulnerable to safety.

"We continue to call on the international community to provide evacuation out of Libya."

The fighting has erupted as EU states effectively barred humanitarian migrant rescue vessels from operating in the southern Mediterranean, leaving it to the ill-equipped Libyan coast guard to deal with the influx. 


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