An estimated 927,000 people in Libya are in need of humanitarian assistance. Displaced populations, refugees and migrants are amongst the most vulnerable. Around 200,000 were displaced when clashes restarted in April 2019 until June 2020.
UNHCR’s overall strategic objective in Libya is to enhance the protection environment and provide life-saving assistance to displaced populations, refugees, asylum-seekers, and their host communities. The outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 raised new challenges to which the operation responded, by adjusting priorities and budgeting.
UNHCR’s priorities in Libya include saving lives, assisting persons in need of international protection and ensuring their access to protection and solutions such as resettlement and family reunification.
Assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs)
▪ Support for IDPs is a priority. UNHCR is providing basic assistance to IDPs in Libya, such as core-relief items and cash assistance. Cash assistance helps the most vulnerable displaced families to cover shelter and basic needs. With partners ACTED and DRC, UNHCR has also provided pre-paid debit cards that can be used to purchase basic items at point of sale outlets across Libya. Considering the challenges posed by the liquidity crisis in the country, UNHCR and its partners have increased the distribution of non-food items to over 33,000 IDPs and returnees in 2020 (compared to 22,000 for the whole of 2019). On 19 November UNHCR began its winter 2020/21 distribution programme in Libya, with a total of 1,000 displaced families (4,567 individuals) in eastern Libya having been reached by partner LibAid with items such as blankets, seasonal clothes, hygiene kits, and solar lamps. The programme has continued in the west, taking in Zawiya, Tarhuna, and Tripoli, reaching some 2,400 IDP families (13,000 individuals) by beginning of February. ▪ UNHCR is implementing quick impact projects (QIPs), which are small and rapidly-implemented projects, to support IDPs, returnees and their host communities with a view to promote social cohesion. Together with the communities, UNHCR and partners identify projects, mainly targeting local infrastructure, equipment and basic services within the health, education, shelter and WASH sectors. For example, in November, ACTED installed two containers at two health centres in Sebha, southern Libya (Al-Gurda Polyclinic and Althanawya Respiratory Clinic) in the south of the country as part of the 2020 QIPs to help support health facilities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, UNHCR implemented projects through its partners, as well as directly, and 59 such projects were finalized, mostly related to health and education, with upgrading of hospitals, clinics, and schools. Mostly recently on 24 January of this year, UNHCR and its medical partner, IRC completed the rehabilitation of Gergaresh Primary Health Care Centre in Tripoli, an area where many refugees and asylum-seekers reside. The QIP included the provision of a 5,000-litre water tank, IT equipment, furniture, and maintenance repair work.
Support following rescue/interception at sea
▪ UNHCR’s interventions at disembarkation points in Libya focus on the provision of life-saving assistance and protection monitoring to identify persons in need of international protection, and vulnerable individuals, including unaccompanied and separated children, the elderly, persons with specific needs, women at risk and victims of trafficking. UNHCR with its partner International Rescue Committee (IRC) has access to and conducts protection monitoring at disembarkation points in western Libya, when informed by the relevant authorities. In the past, UNHCR upgraded reception areas at six disembarkation to meet the basic needs of refugees and migrants being disembarked following a rescue/interception at sea. Support included establishing health posts, constructing water and sanitation facilities, such as toilets and showers, and shaded areas to protect refugees and migrants from rain in the winter and high temperatures in the summer.
Assistance and advocacy to end detention of refugees and asylum-seekers
UNHCR advocates for an end to arbitrary detention in Libya and the release of refugees and asylum-seekers from detention, especially those who are unaccompanied/separated children and other vulnerable individuals. UNHCR also calls for care arrangements for children and family tracing. In 2019, UNHCR and its partners conducted 1,351 visits to detention centres; in 2020 with such reduced movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 264 such visits have been conducted. In mid-October, following negotiations with Libyan authorities of the Department of Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM), some 140 asylum-seekers were released over several days from the Suq Alkhamees DC. All of those released were transported by UNHCR to the Community Day Centre and/or to Serraj registration office, where they received UNHCR’s urban package of assistance, including registration documents, cash grants, food parcels (as part of UNHCR-WFP joint programme), non-food items, hygiene kits and medical checks. Temporary accommodation in the community was arranged by UNHCR’s partner CESVI. Those with specific needs/profiles are further scheduled for protection interviews, before possible referral to durable solutions. In 2020, 387 refugees and asylum-seekers were released following UNHCR’s advocacy efforts (1,780 in 2019), mainly for the purpose of evacuation to a safe third country. Similarly, in mid-January of this year, UNHCR helped to support the transfer of 121 asylum-seekers detained at Zintan (Daher Al Jabal) detention centre (135 kms south-west of Tripoli), to Tripoli, where they received UNHCR’s urban package of assistance.
▪ UNHCR and its partners have limited access to official government detention centres, where they provide lifesaving assistance, including medical services and the distribution of emergency relief items (CRIs) and where particularly poor hygiene conditions contribute to the risk of spreading of diseases. UNHCR continues to advocate for alternatives to detention, an end to arbitrary detention and the establishment of a judicial review process. UNHCR also advocates for measures to be taken to reduce the risk of sexual and gender-based violence.