At the end of 2021, the Humanitarian Country Team in Libya agreed to extend the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for an additional five months covering programming requirements until 31 May 2022. This decision was based on the findings of the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) and Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment (MSNA); which verified improvements in the overall humanitarian situation, following a period of relative political and economic stability in the country. The HNO further 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, while also noting that no population group factored in at the extreme end of the severity scale. In addition, a recalculation of the number of people with the most severe needs identified targeted assistance for 211,000 people. Although uncertainty prevailed over the political and electoral processes in Libya, displaced Libyans continued to return to their places of origin, noting a further reduction in the number of internally displaced people, standing at 199,949 at the end of November 2021 from nearly 280,000 at the start of the year. In light of these achievements, the five-month HRP extension period allowed the humanitarian community to monitor political and socio-economic developments on the ground, including the outcome of the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 24 December 2021, to determine the nature and scope of humanitarian programming post-May 2022.
However, 2022 began on ambiguous grounds as the postponement of the presidential and parliamentary elections heightened concerns for the potential resumption or escalation of hostilities and armed clashes between rival political opponents. Although sporadic localized clashes of armed groups, particularly in the western region continue, there was no associated relapse into large-scale armed conflict to date. A review of humanitarian activities covering the first quarter of 2022 indicates that programming was largely unaffected by the political situation, however, the increasing number of bureaucratic and administrative impediments hindered partners’ ability to effectively deliver assistance in a timely manner. Concurrently, the start of the crisis in Ukraine led to global price increases for basic commodities, whereby in Libya, the price of wheat flour rose by 15 per cent and the Monthly Expenditure Basket by 32 per cent. The increase in prices raised general concerns on food insecurity and the ability of affected populations to afford food staples, which may lead some to adopting negative coping strategies.
Despite bureaucratic barriers and a noted shortfall in funding for some sectors, by the end of March, humanitarian agencies reached 103,000 people, nearly 49 per cent of the targeted population (54 per cent women and 45 per cent men), with lifesaving assistance for non-displaced Libyans, returnees, internally displaced people, refugees and migrants.
The pace of people returning remained steady, however the trend is 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. The cessation of large-scale hostilities and the general improvement in the security sitaution in Libya allowed Humanitarian Mine Action partners to survey and clear nearly 850,000 square meters, with over 3,400 Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) disposed, further creating favorable conditions enabling the return of displaced populations. By end April 2022, the number of returnees increased to 680,772 individuals, most of whom returned to their places of origin, while 159,996 people remain displaced. 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 durable solutions.
Eviction notices issued to IDP settlements increased significantly during the first quarter of 2022, affecting primarily displaced families from Tawergha. In early March, for example, the Dawaa Eslameya IDP settlement in Tripoli, hosting 113 Tawerghan families, were told to vacate the premises within weeks, without the provision for an alternative solution addressing their decade-long protracted displacement status. Although an agreement was reached with authorities delaying the eviction, there are nearly 2,600 households living in IDP settlements across the Tripoli and Benghazi regions facing closure.
On 2 May, two IDP settlements in Tripoli, Fallah 1 and Fallah 2, comprising a total of 506 families, were given notice to leave the premises the following day. Despite advocacy efforts undertaken with the Attorney General’s office, families were eventually coerced to leave the site, with reportedly, many not allowed to access the site to collect their belongings. According to LibAid, some 15 per cent of the IDPs returned to Tawergha, while the remaining families found temporary accommodations around Tripoli. Access to education for school-age children was disrupted, and the toll of psychological distress will impact all displaced populations with the threat of eviction looming.
The number of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers continue to increase, with a total of 649,788 individuals recorded in Libya by the end of April 2022, mirroring pre-pandemic migration dynamics. Although the humanitarian situation for the Libyan population is improving, for non-Libyans, such as, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, the situation is further deteriorating. Forced evictions and widespread security operations targeting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers during the latter part of 2021 into the beginning of 2022 led to the arrest of several thousand individuals, resulting in the separation of families, and causing most to go into hiding.
Their status remains precarious, especially as there is no legal framework that enables humanitarian actors to provide assistance to migrants and refugees in a safe and predictable manner, without consideration of the legality of their standing in the country. The detention of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, including minors, by government authorities is arbitrary and contrary to international obligations and legal norms, thus contributing to human rights abuses, and further exposing them to the risk of human trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labor, among other criminal activities.
In parallel to the rising number of migrants recorded in Libya, the number of people attempting to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea also continues to increase. Humanitarian partners continue to stress that Libya is not a safe port of disembarkation, and as of 28 May, more than 7,000 migrants and refugees were intercepted/rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libya, so far this year. Of the total number intercepted, over 290 were minors, while 600 individuals were reported dead or missing. Most of the refugees and migrants returned are transferred from disembarkation points into detention centres, held under inhumane conditions without access to due process and humanitarian services. As of 29 May, more than 2,400 individuals were being held in government detention centres, with serious concerns about the whereabouts and fate of hundreds of other people intercepted at sea and detained by a range of armed groups. 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.
Access to affected populations is inconsistent, while International NGOs are also reporting increased scrutiny over their activities by national authorities, raising questions about the working environment, and the shrinking of operational humanitarian space across the country.
With the rate of evictions becoming more commonplace, the need to ensure a national durable solutions strategy based on the Centrality of Protection framework, is a key priority. Momentum is building in this regard with the UN and Libyan authorities working collaboratively to formulate guidelines on a national strategy with government-led initiatives for the remaining displaced population, encompassing solutions not only on displaced populations returning to their places of origin, but also local integration and resettlement. In unison with these strategies, capacity building efforts must be further enhanced to rehabilitate basic infrastructural services, as well as increasing corporation with line ministries to ensure that all vulnerable people in Libya are registered for support from local authorities.
Humanitarian partners have scaled up coordination with national counterparts, which includes agreements reached with the Ministry of Social Affairs in improving Libya’s capacity on data collection and analysis to ensure all vulnerable populations are identified for continued assistance. Humanitarian partners are also working collaboratively with humanitarian-development-nexus counterparts on socio-economic vulnerability, adopting tools and methodologies used by development actors to help bridge humanitarian/development/governmental assistance to reduce peoples’ needs, risks, and vulnerabilities.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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