IOM Libya And Georgetown University: Mapping Labour Skills Of Migrants In Misrata - Challenges and Strategies for Integration into the Libyan Market

Originally published
View original


To learn more about the lives of migrants in Misrata, IOM Libya partnered with Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) to conduct a mixed-method study consisting of literature review, qualitative interviews and a quantitative survey administered to nearly 1,000 migrants in Misrata. The study aims to shed more light on the lives and background of migrants in Misrata by examining the abilities and skills they bring to the labour market, challenges they face and their employment and education-related aspirations.

Executive Summary

Nearly six years earlier at the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, then Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon summarized this migrant’s story another way: “Migration,” said Mr. Ban, “is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety, and a better future.” Since 2013, which saw the adoption of the Declaration of the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, scores of migrants have sacrificed and toiled and strove in pursuit of these goals, and at high costs. In 2019 alone, the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project recorded 5,364 migrant deaths, of which 1,885—the second largest share—were in the Mediterranean.

In addition to being an expression of an aspiration, migration is a complex and non-linear process that ebbs and flows with the economic, political, and social currents in both migrants’ origin and destination countries. How do migrants navigate these currents? To what extent can migrants’ preexisting skills and goals affect these currents as migrants update their preferences based on the tide not only of the Mediterranean, but also of the countries that line it?

The report summarizes the findings of a mixedmethod study that aimed to answer these questions among international migrants in the Libyan baladiya of Misrata, which presents what may be considered one model of a Libyan city where migrant labour is integrated into the city in a way that “works” for both migrants and the host population.

Conducted in 2019 by IOM and a research team at Georgetown, the quantitative and qualitative study aims to understand the abilities and skills migrant labourers bring to the labour market; the reasons why they came to Libya to work; their daily lives; the challenges they face in Libya; the strategies they use to get around these challenges; and their employment- and education-related aspirations.

Findings from the quantitative survey generalize to the nearly 56,000 international migrants from 17 nationalities living in the Misrata baladiya as of December 2018, when the sample for the study was drawn. Migrants from Niger (34%) and Egypt (19%) are the two largest groups. The population of the Misrata municipality (344,000) makes it the third largest in Libya, and in 2018, it hosted 11 percent of the country’s migrant population. While this share makes it second only to Tripoli (where 21% of migrants reside), proportionally, Misrata has a higher migrant-to-citizen ratio (1:6).

Aside from its migrant-to-citizen ratio, several other factors distinguish Misrata from other cities in Libya. First, Misrata avoided much of the fighting that ensued in the wake of the 2011 fall of Qaddafi’s regime, and this relative stability not only accounts for its economic success, but also is why it attracts Libyans from around the country, either to live there or to visit there for shopping or vacation. Second, Misrata’s port and the industry-related economic ecosystem it creates drives the need for labour.

Third, as the study findings corroborate, migrants in the position to “choose” Misrata do so because the city is considered safer. It also offers many different kinds of employment opportunities including those in construction, the industries associated with the port (import, export, and transportation), manufacturing, agriculture, animal husbandry, and fishing. In their qualitative interviews, some migrants cite their good relations with Libyans and their Libyan employers, including ones who they are currently employed with and ones that they worked for in the past. While other studies of migration in Libya reveal that migrants report not enough available jobs(3) , this study found that migrants more commonly reported that they did not have the skills needed for the available jobs and were eager for training opportunities.

But life for migrants in Misrata is not free from challenges. One issue that migrants report, mirroring findings from other studies, are low salaries and irregular salary payment.(4) A second issue is that the cost of living is on the rise, making it harder to save any money or send money home, given the cost of migration and the cost of living. Finally, in the qualitative interviews, migrants often referenced the petty theft/armed robbery they faced both on the streets and in their homes or shelters and travelling to and from their home countries.

Misrata’s appeal as an economic hub for migrants cannot overlook the alleged abuses that some migrants may have endured during their journey, including in arbitrary detention. Given the sensitivities and challenges around this subject, no interviews were conducted in detention centers.