Refugees in LibyaHundreds of thousands of refugees have passed through Libya on their journey toward Europe, where they cross a short distance over the sea from Libya into Lampedusa, Italy. These refugees in Libya face grave danger from Libya’s Islamic State militant group and from human traffickers.

The Libyan government must take the steps necessary to protect these refugees; however, Libya has been without a centralized government since 2014. Here are ten facts that outline the trials and tribulations faced on the journey of refugees in Libya:

  1. The number of refugees passing through Libya has quadrupled since 2013. The increase in refugee traffic results in an increase in migration through Europe, where refugees are able to create their new lives.
  2. Previously, 87 percent of the almost one million refugees who crossed into Europe arrived through Greece. Now these refugees have been redirected through Libya as a result of the EU-Turkey deal that resettles one refugee for everyone turned away.
  3. These hundreds of thousands of refugees in Libya are traveling from over 12 countries, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa. Refugees face many dangers on their journey, but the new start that awaits them beyond the Libyan border is motivation enough to brave any sort of obstacles.
  4. However, refugees who do pass across the Libyan border are sometimes intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and detained in overcrowded detention centers until they are deported back to their home countries.
  5. Aside from the coast guard, many refugees are taken in by human traffickers and subject to torture. This results from a lack of government centralization and control to reduce the crime that occurs in Libya, which could be improved by foreign aid to assist the Libyan government to create a safer environment for its citizens.
  6. Armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant also intercept refugees on their journey toward Europe. These armed groups are able to infest Libya by way of a weak government that has little ability to remove or keep out these dangers, though the Libyan government also poses a danger to its citizens.
  7. Refugees in Libya are at great risk of religious persecution. Those who are persecuted can be detained by the Libyan government.
  8. Female refugees in Libya can face rape and starvation at the hands of human traffickers or smugglers who sell them to criminal gangs. Despite it being incredibly dangerous for refugees to pass through Libya, many still risk it to cross into Europe.
  9.  Mass rape is such a significant issue for refugees in Libya that women often take contraceptive pills before traveling through the area.
  10. The deputy director of Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa has called for the Libyan government and authorities as well as the European Union to protect refugees from abuse as they pass through Libya.

In order to protect refugees from facing abuse, the Libyan government and the EU should focus on finding safer routes and methods of exit for the refugees who are trapped in Libya instead of focusing on keeping refugees away. Refugees who come from over a dozen countries to pass through Libya may traverse dangerous roads, but it is with the intent to create new lives for the refugees and their families.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr

Why Are Libyan Refugees Drowning At Sea?-TBP
The distance from Benghazi to Sigonella, Sicily is 470 miles. On a small and inefficient fishing boat, that could be two to three weeks at sea. Ahmad, like all Libyan refugees, must be ready to endure an extremely dangerous voyage upon a vessel crammed over capacity. He must be ready to not have adequate water and food as he and many others navigate the perilous waves and winds of the Mediterranean Sea. In the back of his mind, he is aware that he may drown, like the 800 Libyan refugees in April of 2015 when their over-packed fishing boat capsized.

Yet, he is willing to make the sacrifice for a supposedly better life. So why are he and countless other Libyan refugees willing to drown at sea for this trip? The answer is not simply due to political violence and warring factions that fight for control of precious resources and cities. The situation is far more complex, but one of the main reasons is the inadequate aid that Libya’s health and educational systems are receiving after NATO’s military intervention in 2011.

In 2010, barring debates of human rights violations, Libya was considered an economic jewel of Northern Africa. Life expectancy was higher than anywhere else in Africa and the Middle East. Children between the ages of one and two years of age had a 98% immunization rate against measles, and 97% of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities.

Education was another bright spot for the nation. Women’s education was the most progressive in Northern Africa, where over 50% of university enrollment were women. According to data from the United Nations, primary-secondary enrollment ratio (female/male per 100) between 2006 and 2012 was 112.5 to 106.0.

Today, the educational system in Libya is in complete shambles. A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson explained that one of the main areas of concern for Benghazi was the closure of over 60 schools and universities. Instead of teaching, many of the schools are now public housing for displaced Libyans. As the next generation becomes uneducated, they are more likely to join extremist groups in hopes of achieving work and status.

The lack of access to medical treatment is taking its toll on the country’s vulnerable population. In a World Health Organization (WHO) report from January 2015, Libya’s hospitals are overburdened with internally displaced persons (IDPs). There is an increasing strain on Emergency Medical Services (including obstetric care) and insufficient capacity of health services to cope with increasing numbers requiring emergency healthcare due to decreased staff numbers.

On top of the lack of staff and facilities, there is a significant risk of transmission of communicable disease (TB, HIV and possibly Ebola) through the thousands of illegal immigrants passing through Libya. The report also states that there is “an increased possibility of outbreaks (especially measles) due to the recent displacement and the disruption of the primary health care network in the main cities.”

Since the start of the year, there are an estimated 150,000 refugees migrating to Europe. That number is only likely to increase.

Countries such as Italy and Greece have been overwhelmed by the majority of refugees. On June 14 of this year, the Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi addressed the European Union (EU) insisting that “Europe’s answers have so far have not been good enough.” He urges the EU to aid in setting up refugee processing camps in Libya to help with the relocation process.

This is, however, not enough, as processing camps will eventually become overwhelmed with escaping refugees. More aid is needed to address the growing needs of the Libyan people. In March, WHO delivered medical supplies to help serve 250,000 people. The aid was donated by Italy and the Central Emergency Response Fund.

On May 21, the United Nations hunger relief agency delivered ten trucks with food and humanitarian relief. In conjunction with the World Food Programme, they aim to provide life-saving assistance to over 243,000 IDPs over the course of six months. Unfortunately, no aid was delivered in March and April due to lack of funding, and another $14 million is needed to ensure the food operation continues uninterrupted.

The United States and its allies must send foreign aid to Libya for the rebuilding of the health and education systems. Libya is slowly heading down the same path as Iraq and Syria. If no aid is sent, the migration pressure on Europe will become too strenuous, eventually affecting that region. If the Libyan people are not assisted and more take to the seas, the economic conditions will further worsen in Europe, which in turn, will not bode well for the United States.

– Adnan Khalid

Sources: Centre for Research on Globalization, Free Map Tools, The Guardian, UN Data, UN 1, UN 2 UN Refugee Agency, WHO 1, WHO 2, World Bank
Photo: Esquire