GENEVA, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- The UN Human Rights chief on Tuesday expressed dismay at the sharp increase in the number of migrants held in horrific conditions at detention facilities in Libya.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement that the European Union's policy of assisting the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and return migrants in the Mediterranean is inhuman.
"The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity," he said. "What was an already dire situation has now turned catastrophic. The detention system for migrants in Libya is broken beyond repair."
He said that only alternatives to detention can save migrants' lives and physical security, preserve their dignity and protect them from further atrocities.
He called for the creation of domestic legal measures and the decriminalisation of irregular migration to ensure the protection of migrants' human rights.
According to Libya's Department of Combatting Illegal Migration, 19,900 people were being held in facilities under its control in early November, said the UN official.
That was up from about 7,000 in mid-September when authorities detained thousands of migrants following armed clashes in Sabratha, a smuggling and trafficking hub, about 80 kilometers west of Tripoli.
The EU and Italy are giving assistance to the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrant boats in the Mediterranean, including in international waters, the UN rights chief noted.
"The increasing interventions of the EU and its member states have done nothing so far to reduce the level of abuses suffered by migrants," he said. "Our monitoring, in fact, shows a fast deterioration in their situation in Libya."