More than 600 migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers have been arrested by Libyan authorities at a protest camp outside a closed aid centre in Tripoli, aid groups say.

The migrants, including women and children, had camped outside the centre in Tripoli since October, seeking protection following a massive crackdown on migrants.
The migrants, including women and children, had camped outside the centre in Tripoli since October, seeking protection following a massive crackdown on migrants. (AP Archive)

Libyan authorities have violently arrested hundreds of migrants and refugees overnight during a protest sit-in outside a shuttered UN community centre in the capital of Tripoli.

The Norwegian Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee said more than 600 migrants were detained in the raid on Monday.

IRC's Libya chief Thomas Garofalo said the group's medical teams had treated several injured people including one with a gunshot wound.

"We understand that hundreds of people, including many women and children, have now been sent onwards to detention centres where conditions are often already dire," he added.

"Witnesses have told us they were met with violence this morning and that makeshift tents were burnt down," said Dax Roque, NRC's country director.

Both groups urged Libyan authorities to immediately release those detained and provide them protection from further violence.

READ MORE: UN slams Libya over migrant detentions and 'crimes against humanity'

Crackdown on migrants

The troops came overnight, smashed up the protest site and arrested hundreds, said activist Tarik Lamloum. 

Those detained were sent to a detention centre in the nearby town of Ain Zara. Others managed to flee from the raid, he said.

Aiysha, a Sudanese migrant, was part of the sit-in protest along with her family since October. The mother of two said police beat and detained migrants. She was among those detained.

“We were caught off guard," she said, speaking by phone from the detention centre in Ain Zara. She gave only her first name, fearing for her safety. "They burned the tents, burned everything.”

A government spokesman did not answer phone calls and messages seeking comment.

The centre had been providing aid to refugees and asylum seekers before it was permanently closed in December, prompting some migrants to set up a protest camp outside the facility.

READ MORE: Amnesty condemns EU’s role in ‘horrific violations’ against Libya migrants

Source: TRTWorld and agencies