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Migrant detention centre bombed in Libya gradually being emptied, UN says

A general view of the destroyed detention center in Tripoli's, Libya, 03 July 2019. according to media reports, At least 44 people killed and 130 were injured after strike hit the Tajoura detention center held at least 600 refugees were attempting to reach Europe from Libya.
A general view of the destroyed detention center in Tripoli's, Libya, 03 July 2019. according to media reports, At least 44 people killed and 130 were injured after strike hit the Tajoura detention center held at least 600 refugees were attempting to reach Europe from Libya. EPA/STR

A migrant detention centre in Tripoli hit by a deadly airstrike last week is being gradually emptied following a decision by Libyan authorities to release its inmates, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Wednesday.

The July 3 airstrike on Tajoura detention centre killed 53 people and injured 130, according to the latest death toll from the World Health Organization.

READ MORE: At least 40 dead after migrant detention centre in Libya hit by air strike: official

The United Nations has said the strike on the camp, holding an estimated 350 people this week, could amount to a war crime.

The strike occurred as eastern forces under Khalifa Haftar keep up a ground and aerial offensive to wrest control of Tripoli from the UN-backed government. The two sides blame each other for the attack.

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It left frightened migrants and refugees desperate to leave the centre in an eastern suburb of the capital. The United Nations has also called for the migrants to evacuated to safety.

WATCH: Migrant detention centre in Libya hit by airstrike

Click to play video 'At least 40 dead after migrant detention centre in Libya hit by air strike: official' At least 40 dead after migrant detention centre in Libya hit by air strike: official
At least 40 dead after migrant detention centre in Libya hit by air strike: official – Jul 2, 2019

“At some point yesterday (Tuesday), a decision was taken by authorities to release the detainees. They were also given an option, they were not compelled,” UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley said.

In all, some 260 migrants immediately left and walked to a UNHCR departure facility where they were allowed to stay overnight and given emergency assistance. They are expected to go to a community day centre where they will receive food, water and medical care, he said.

READ MORE: Boat carrying 86 migrants missing at sea one day after deadly Libya airstrike

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Some 55 of the migrants deemed most vulnerable, many of them women and unaccompanied children, stayed in the camp awaiting transfer on Wednesday to UNHCR’s departure facility in Tripoli, security conditions permitting, he said. They are slated to be evacuated to a third safe country.

Libya is one of the main departure points for African migrants fleeing poverty and war to try to reach Italy by boat, but many are picked up and brought back by the Libyan coast guard, supported by the European Union.

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Survivor recounts horror of migrant boat capsizing – Jul 4, 2019

Some migrants had demanded that all the camp’s inhabitants be evacuated to a third safe country, delaying operations, UNHCR said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The UNHCR departure centre in Tripoli and a transit centre in Niger are full, Yaxley said, adding: “We are relying on states to come forward with evacuation places to get people out.”

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Several dozen migrants and refugees have chosen to stay in the detention centre for now following the sudden decision by authorities but are free to go, he said.