Addressing the plight of refugees in Libya: A United Against Inhumanity (UAI) Statement

13 December 2021

The situation for refugees in Libya is precarious and complex. Attempts to improve it are being impeded by a variety of factors. These include: the limited authority of the UN and EU-supported government in Tripoli and its close association with militia groups; the EU’s determination to prioritize migration control over refugee protection and respect for migrant rights; UNHCR’s dependence on EU funding and its lack of an agreement with the authorities with respect to the scope and scale of its activities in the country.

Such constraints should not be used as an excuse for inaction. Urgent steps must now be taken.

UAI recommends the following immediate action:

The Libyan government should close all refugee and migrant detention centres as quickly as possible. In the meantime, detainees must be protected from abusive treatment and given full access to international humanitarian organizations. In addition, the government should ratify and respect the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, formalize the role of UNHCR in the country and work with that organization to establish an effective shelter and assistance programme for refugees in Tripoli. It should remove any restrictions on the UNHCR programme of evacuation and onward refugee resettlement.

The EU and its member states should withdraw cooperation with Libya with respect to the interception, return and detention of refugees and migrants in Libya and use its influence to ensure the early closure of the detention centres. The EU should also remove all restrictions on the activities of NGOs undertaking search-and-rescue operations in the central Mediterranean, establish arrangements that would enable the immediate disembarkation of people rescued at sea and make additional resettlement places available for refugees in Libya and those evacuated to Niger and Rwanda.

UNHCR and the UN system should ensure that any support provided to the Libyan authorities meets the objective of ensuring that refugees and migrants in Libya are treated in accordance with international human rights standards. UNHCR should also engage in an intensive dialogue with the protesting refugees in Tripoli, make every effort to improve the protection, shelter, and assistance available to them and hold the Libyan authorities and the EU to public account for policies that lead to the inhumane treatment of refugees and migrants.

Thank you to from UAI to ©Ahlam Almulaiki @cnvschq for the illustration

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