CHANGE IN CONTEXT
The 2022 Libya Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) assessed that 803,000 people remain affected and in need of some form of continued humanitarian assistance, a reduction by 36 per cent from the 1.5 million people identified in 2021. The HNO further estimated that 211,000 people require targeted humanitarian assistance for the first five months of 2022, including: 56,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); 18,000 returnees; 52,000 nondisplaced Libyans; 41,000 migrants; and 43,000 refugees2 . While noting steady improvements to the humanitarian situation as evidenced through the HNO and assessments, and in parallel to the achievements on the political and security fronts, the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) agreed to extend the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) into the first five months of 2022, from January to 31 May.
The HRP extension allowed the humanitarian community to evaluate and monitor developments on the ground to determine programming requirements beyond 31 May 2022; taking into consideration the pending outcomes of the presidential elections scheduled at the end of 2021, while also noting the changes in the situation in Libya with the number of people in need reducing and progress towards early recovery and humanitarian-development nexus building, gaining momentum.
In 2021, significant improvements to the overall security situation in Libya, precipitated by the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in October 2020 and the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in March 2021, fostered a degree of political stability throughout the country. The cessation of large-scale hostilities allowed for more favorable humanitarian conditions resulting in the increase of the number of displaced people returning. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s latest Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), of the current returnee population (673,554), 98 per cent returned to their places of origin due to improvements in the security situation, while 89 per cent of returnees live in their previous homes3 . Although the postponement of the parliamentary and presidential elections at the end of December 2021 heightened fears for a return to hostilities and increasing political instability, humanitarian partners did not report serious operational impediments to their programming, which remained largely unaffected.
While political uncertainties continue, the overall humanitarian situation has been stabilizing as initiatives towards building government capacity for recovery and rehabilitation are moving forward. However, events outside of Libya’s periphery, such as the crisis in Ukraine, contributed to new challenges with food prices rising exponentially in mid-February. The start of the crisis in Ukraine led to a global price increase of wheat flour by 19.7 per cent4 , with Libya being one of the most-affected as 75 per cent of its wheat supply is imported from Russia and Ukraine. According to the World Food Programme, the price of wheat flour increased by 15 per cent in Libya within the last two months, while the Monthly Expenditure Basket (MEB) showed an increase by 32 per cent from pre-pandemic levels5 , raising new concerns not only for vulnerable populations, but all Libyans and their ability to afford food staples, which may lead to adopting negative coping strategies.
Progress towards forming government-led initiatives on durable solutions for the remaining displaced population moved forward with the arrival of an expert on displacement affairs within the Office of the Resident Coordinator (RCO), working in collaboration with government authorities.
Work has begun on formulating guidelines towards a national strategy, encompassing solutions not only on displaced populations returning to their places of origin, but also local integration and resettlement with a view towards achieving durable solutions as part of a government-led approach that includes the allocation of dedicated national resources. In addition, on 6 March 2022, OCHA and the Ministry of Social Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalizing an agreement to extend support, including capacity building measures, for services rendered through the Ministry of Social Affairs. The MOU agreement includes supporting capacity building measures on emergency response planning and coordination; information management training to support data collection and analysis; as well as support to the Ministry in reaching the most vulnerable groups, including displaced persons and returnees.
At the same time, administrative and bureaucratic policies of national authorities and the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) also affected humanitarian planning and operations throughout the country. A liquidity crisis set limitations on the amount of funds humanitarian organizations could withdraw from banks, affecting cash-based programming and the procurement and delivery of humanitarian supplies. While some positive steps were taken to improve the process of visa approvals for international NGO staff, delays were still encountered, forcing some organizations to further augment programming.
The pace of people returning remained steady, however the trend has shown signs of slowing as those still displaced face more systemic impediments to return, such as houses damaged due to armed conflict and the lack of access to public services upon return, as well as personal security and social cohesion. According to IOM, more than 50,000 IDPs returned between February 2021 and January 2022, with the current total number of returnees recorded as 673,554 individuals. To date, some 168,011 people remain displaced, which accounts for a 47 per cent reduction in the number of people internally displaced in Libya since the October 2020 ceasefire (when 316,415 individuals were reported as displaced)6 . Those displaced for a protracted period, face uncertainty with critical protection risks persisting with an increase in the number of forced evictions and returns not meeting international standards as well as the lack of government solutions.
Since 2021, the forced evictions of individuals and families in collective centres and informal sites significantly increased, leading to a heightened risk of multiple displacement and tenure insecurity. In the first quarter of 2022, eviction notices were issued to IDP settlements, hosting primarily families from Tawergha, for whom several barriers remain for their return and reintegration, which require long-term interventions related to housing, restoration of basic services and livelihoods, as well as support from the government. In early March, the Dawaa Eslameya IDP settlement in Tripoli, hosting approximately 113 Tawerghan displaced families, were issued an eviction notice to vacate the premises within weeks, without the provision of an alternative solution fo their protracted displacement status by governmental authorities. Although the Attorney-General’s (AG) office extended the deadline, there are potentially four other informal sites facing closure, affecting nearly 800 families in Tripoli and Benghazi. A recent mapping exercise of informal IDP sites, conducted by the Shelter/ Non-food Items (SNFI) sector, with support by the Protection sector, identified 24 sites across Libya at risk of eviction or closure, affecting an estimated 2,600 Households. There are also indications of the possible return of IDPs from Murzuq following a reconciliation agreement signed by the conflicted parties in late March 2022. The agreement however is questioned by some of the representatives of the General Assembly of Murzuq and the financial support promised has yet to be disbursed.
Access to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers remained erratic for humanitarian partners in the aftermath of the October 2021 and January 2022 security operations, resulting in the mass arrest of thousands of migrants, forcing many to go into hiding. Their humanitarian needs remain high, with access to health services (74 per cent), non-food items (54 per cent) and shelter/accommodation (50 per cent) as the top priorities7 .
Barriers, such as, risk of detention and the reluctance of landlords in Tripoli to rent to non-Libyans create significant risks of homelessness as well as leading many to adopt harmful coping mechanisms. The status of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers remains precarious especially as there is no legal framework that enables humanitarian actors to provide assistance in a safe and predictable manner, without consideration of the legality of their status in the country. Libya is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and has no legislation concerning the status and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. The widespread detention of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, including children, by the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) is arbitrary and contrary to international obligations and legal norms, lacking legal oversight and judicial review, contributing to widespread human rights abuses. Lack of legal protection or a determined status further exposes them to the risk of human trafficking, among them forced labor, forced prostitution, sexual slavery, and forced criminal activities.
According to IOM, the number of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the country continued to increase, with a total of 635,051 individuals recorded by the end of January 2022, from over 44 nationalities in the 100 Libyan municipalities, including 88,907 children, of which some 5,300 are unaccompanied minors. The operational space to provide principled humanitarian assistance to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Libya deteriorated in the aftermath of the government led security operations, which eventually led to the closure of the Community Day Centre, where migrants received assistance, due to increasing safety concerns.
Migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea also increased, with more than 3,500 intercepted/rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) and returned to Libya, by the end of March 2022.
Of the total number intercepted, nearly 150 were minors (40 girls, 107 boys). Additionally, 318 people attempting to cross were reported dead or missing. With the increase in rescue at sea/interception operations, most of those returned were transferred from disembarkation points into detention centres, held under inhumane conditions without access to due process and facing serious violations and abuses. Limited and inconsistent access to detention centres poses obstacles to the monitoring of the status of those held, increasing concerns over human rights violations, including torture, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and the deprivation of basic needs. The number of migrants held in government detention centres stood at 1,657 individuals by end March 2022, with significant concerns about the whereabouts and fate of hundreds of other people intercepted at sea and detained in Libya by a range of armed actors. Humanitarian partners have been unable to verify reports of informal detention facilities managed by armed security groups, where an estimated 5,000 individuals are believed to be held, due to a lack of access.
The decrease in large-scale hostilities provided for a significant reduction in the use of heavy weapons and explosive ordnance. Although a reduction of hostilities meant that new contamination from explosive remnants of war was not continuing, large amounts of explosive hazard contamination, including unexploded ordnance, landmines, booby-traps,
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and abandoned explosive ordnance that had accumulated during the siege of Tripoli, as well as during previous conflicts, remain in place. The contamination continues to pose a threat to the lives and livelihoods to those who live in their vicinity and act as an impediment to the return of displaced populations, especially in southern Tripoli.
As of end December 2021, Mine Action partners reported the total number of victims stood at 298 (278 men/20 women), of whom 174 were injured and 124 dead. Civilians accounted for 72 per cent (220) of the victims, and 78 individuals (28 per cent) were specialists in explosive ordnance disposal from the Ministry of Defense and Interior. The age of the victims ranged from four to 70 years. Explosive hazard contamination affected humanitarian needs to some degree in virtually all locations where it was reported. Migrants and refugees are particularly at risk, as they do not have access to the same formal and informal information networks and/ or are often faced with language barriers when accessing vital mine risk education.
Following regional and global Omicron trends, the COVID-19 pandemic remained an ongoing reality. At the beginning of the year, COVID-19 cases spiked, once again, across the country, as Libya entered the fourth wave of the pandemic, forcing educational facilities to close for a period of two weeks at the end of January 2022. The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported that by end February, the overall number of new confirmed cases showed a 35 per cent increase (61,183 cases) from 40,932 cases in January, with the east region reporting a 123 per cent increase, and the south, a 148 per cent increase in cases8 . Data showed that on a weekby-week comparison, cased were declining by the end of February, and by 20 March, the head of the NCDC announced that Libya had exited the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, though continued advocating the importance of increasing the rate of vaccinated people to ensure full immunity. By end March, a total of 2.2 million people received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 1.35 million people received two doses and 92,517 people received a booster dose. In addition, the NCDC, in partnership with IOM, continued with their vaccination campaign targeting migrants and refugees, with a total of 10,188 migrants having received the COVID-19 vaccine, of whom some 26 per cent (2,684) have received both doses.
Despite these efforts, the rate of vaccination remains low at 4,000 people per day, which at the current rate would allow for only 20 per cent of the population vaccinated by the end of June 2022.
As the COVID-19 situation started to stabilize, focus on Libya’s public health care infrastructure highlighted the deteriorating situation of neglected facilities and services. The availability of general vaccines, such as MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) and bOPV (bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine), indicate a critical gap and alarming nationwide shortages, putting Libya at risk of serious outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as Measles and Tuberculosis; while the shortage of essential medications threaten the spread and treatment of HIV, acute diarrhea and dysentery, as well as Leishmaniasis, which remains endemic with resurgent outbreaks.
In addition, mental health services remain largely unavailable, particularly in the south region.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.