Migration to Libya is not a new phenomenon. Since the 1950s Libya has held an important position as a destination for refugees and migrants2 in the North African region with individuals coming from West and Central Africa, Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to work. In 2011 and 2014, coinciding with the first and second civil wars in Libya, refugees and migrants started to increasingly arrive via boat from Libya in Italy. From early 2017 onwards reactionary migration measures were implemented in Libya and its southern neighbours to stem the flow of refugee and migrant sea arrivals to Italian shores. In 2018 refugee and migrant sea arrivals from Libya to Italy drastically decreased, with only 15,342 refugees and migrants reaching Italy irregularly via boat from Libya, a seven-fold decrease compared to the previous year.3 The risk of death at sea, however, doubled, making the Central Mediterranean Sea route the deadliest route to Europe in 2018.
The situation for the 663,000 refugees and migrants estimated to be in Libya remains inherently complex.4 Due to their irregular situation in the country,5 refugees and migrants tend to be hidden, so-called ‘hard-to-reach’ populations in Libya, making it challenging for humanitarian actors to access them. At the same time, refugees and migrants are exposed to severe protection risks in Libya, exacerbated by the continued fragile security situation and the politicised context of migration in the country. Disentangling these dynamics, and disentangling the diversity of profiles the term ‘refugees and migrants’ in Libya encompasses, is key to a more nuanced and evidence-based understanding and response to mixed migration in Libya.
The present report is based on a longitudinal analysis of assessments on mixed migration routes and dynamics, conducted over the course of 2018. It is based on six rapid thematic studies, conducted over the course of 2018, as well as a longitudinal analysis of changes in mixed migration routes and dynamics in Libya since 2017, with analysis based on comparable indicators monitored in late 2016 and early 2017.6 In total, the present report is based on 477 individual in-depth semi-structured interviews with refugees and migrants, conducted in Libya (436) and Italy (41) and 113 key informant interviews, conducted in Libya, Italy and Tunisia.