Libya

The Prime Minister wants to postpone the return of refugees from Tawergha – the policy of national reconciliation is bound to fail

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Appointed date for return of 35,000 IDPs (June 25) cancelled!

Göttingen, 21. Juni 2013

Four days before the planned return of 35,000 displaced people to the town of Tawergha (Libya), the government has put these plans on hold. On Thursday, Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan asked the displaced dark skinned people from Libya not to return to their hometown on the originally planned date, June 25, 2013. In consequence, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) accused the Libyan government of racism and of not being committed to reconciliations between the warring population groups. "If the people of Tawergha are not able to return now – after 22 months of displacement – the policy of national reconciliation has failed," criticized the STP's Africa-consultant, Ulrich Delius in Göttingen on Friday. "In the Arab state, people are being marginalized and discriminated against because of their skin color once again."

"Every Libyan – not matter whether he is Arabic, a Berber or a black African – must be able to move freely in his country," demanded Delius. The people from the surrounding towns are generally accusing the displaced people from Tawergha of having supported Libya's dictator Muammar al Gaddafi. After Gaddafi's fall, militias had repeatedly attacked the residents of Tawergha, forcing them to flee from the city – which is located to the east of the capital Tripoli – to refugee camps in the vicinity of Benghazi in August 2011.

At a press conference, Prime Minister Zeidan stated that the time for a return of the citizens of Tawergha had not yet come. His administration was still working on a solution to the conflict. Moreover, the protests of the opposing inhabitants of the neighboring city of Misrata should be taken seriously. The Libyan government and the UN special envoy, Secretary General Tarek Mitri, fear that a return on June 25 would cause a new outbreak of violence.

"The announcement of a collective return is a cry for help from the forgotten refugees of Tawergha," said Delius. Without this symbolic action, neither the United Nations nor the Libyan authorities would have undergone any serious efforts to reintegrate the refugees. "The refugees' tragic situation shows how helpless the Libyan Government and the International Community are, regarding the conflicts in the North African state."

Ulrich Delius is available for further questions: +49 (0)551-49906-27.