Since 2011, Libya’s complex socio-political context has been marked by an increasingly protracted conflict. The political and military division of the country between West and East in 2014 marked the beginning of a renewed state of instability, characterised by more localised forms of violence around key strategic and economic resources. In 2019, conflict reignited in the Western region and tensions continued into 2020. While the creation of the country’s first unified government in seven years in March 2021 represented a key milestone in the peace process, presidential and parliamentary elections planned for December 2021, which were expected to be a crucial step towards the unification of the country, have been postponed indefinitely by the National Elections Commission. These recent events might bring new political fragmentation to the country resulting in an unclear strategy for moving forward.
In March 2020, the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Libya. By February 2022, 490,000 confirmed cases and 6,222 deaths have been recorded. All the while, access to healthcare services in Libya remains limited as facilities have been negatively affected by the protracted conflict, which hindered the country’s capacity to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Indeed, the Libyan healthcare system continues to struggle with shortages of medical equipment and staff. The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent public health measures adopted have further disrupted livelihoods already affected by the protracted conflict and the economic crisis, resulting in a generalised erosion of living standards and threatening the ability of Libyan and non-Libyan populations to meet their basic needs. According to the 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview, while the number of persons in need inside Libya in 2021 showed a marked decrease compared to the previous year (-38% or 1.3 million), it still amounted to 0.8 million. Refugees and migrants together represented 34% of the total estimated people in need, with estimated 43,000 and 232,000 refugees and migrants in need respectively. These needs differ in magnitude and in severity across different sectors and different population groups, regions of origin and geographical regions within Libya.
Against this backdrop of protracted conflict, economic crisis, and restrictive migration policies, Libya remains a destination and transit country for migrants, primarily from neighbouring countries such as Niger (25% of the total estimated migrant population in Libya), Egypt (18%), Sudan (18%) and Chad (13%), mainly due to its job opportunities and geographical proximity to these countries and Europe. As of December 2021, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimated that 635,051 migrants, most of whom are men, were residing in the country, while, as of June 2022, 44,203 individuals were registered as refugees or asylum seekers with the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR). Reduced livelihoods opportunities, lack of documentation, and discrimination prevent many refugees and migrants from accessing basic services and assistance and covering their essential needs. In addition, due to endemic insecurity and limited legal protection, refugees and migrants are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking, harassment and abuse, while the criminalisation of irregular entry, stay, or departure since 2010 exposes them to the risk of arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention.
Crucial humanitarian information gaps remain regarding refugees and migrants in Libya, as the political, economic and social landscapes are constantly evolving, and as humanitarian access to affected populations is limited, particularly as a result of COVID-19. In this context and building upon REACH’s experience in conducting Multi-Sector Needs Assessments (MSNAs) in Libya since 2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in collaboration with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), with support from REACH and extensive input from all active sectors and working groups in Libya, propose to conduct a Refugee and Migrant multi-sectoral needs assessment (MSNA) in 10 mantikas (admin level 2) in Libya, on behalf of the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), the Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) and the Assessment Working Group (AWG). UNHCR and REACH have organised the 2021 MSNA through the AWG, designed data collection and analysis tools, and consulted with each sector active in the Libyan response to revise indicators. The MSNA will be conducted with strong linkages to and coordination with the HNO process and also provide trends analysis and updates on key sector priorities. UNHCR and REACH have actively engaged with humanitarian partners in February – April 2021 to assess the feasibility of, and revise methodologies in line with physical access restrictions arising out of the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19. Based on the latest analysis of the situation in Libya, it is expected that REACH assessment teams will return to in person data collection as the main method, differently from what was done in the 2020 and 2021 Refugee and Migrant MSNAs.
The primary purpose of the assessment is to inform and update humanitarian actors’ understanding of the needs that exist among refugees and migrants in the country, to inform the 2023 humanitarian response planning and, overall, to support a targeted and evidence-based humanitarian response. In particular, it is intended to provide: i) an overall, cross-sectoral understanding of vulnerabilities among refugees and migrants in Libya, their most pressing needs and the severity of needs, both within each sector and from a cross-sector perspective (driven by the analytical framework proposed in Annex I); and ii) a more in-depth, qualitative assessment of the situation of specific vulnerable groups.