World Refugee Survey 2009: Libya
Libya hosted about 18,900 refugees, mainly Palestinians, Sudanese, Somalis, and Iraqis.
In January, the European Union (EU) announced new cooperation with Libya on several areas, stopping asylum seekers and other migrants from reaching Europe by crossing the Mediterranean. The Government also announced plans to demolish makeshift homes of undocumented foreigners around Tripoli and other cities.
Libya’s official news agency, JANA, reported that the country began expelling all illegal immigrants in January. Government sources alleged there were more than 1 million in Libya, most of whom were Sub-Saharan Africans from Chad, Sudan, and Niger. Libyan authorities further stated that they would prosecute and fine those who provided shelter to illegal immigrants. The Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concern for the lack of protection for refugees and asylum seekers in the deportation process, although the Government claimed that none of the million it hoped to deport were refugees or asylum seekers. During the year, the Government somewhat improved screening for refugees and asylum seekers among the deportees.
In March, the International Organization for Migration opened a center for stranded African migrants in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, to provide humanitarian assistance. It helped more than 1,800 migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia return to their home countries voluntarily. The center provided temporary housing for up to 40 people, counseling, and medical services, as well as information on the dangers of irregular migration.
Libya deported 110 Malians in April, after reportedly detaining them for months, beating them, and confiscating their money.
In July, UNHCR signed an agreement with the International Organization for Peace, Care and Relief, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development and the Italian Council for Refugees to ensure the protection needs of asylum seekers and refugees in Libya.
In July, hundreds of Eritrean refugees marched in Ethiopia’s capital, demanding that Egypt and Libya stop deporting Eritreans, whom they said were at risk of execution.
In August, Italy agreed to pay Libya $5 billion as compensation for its colonization of Libya, which ended in 1943. Libya agreed to work more closely with Italy to prevent African migrants from reaching Italy from Libya.
In early September, Libya deported nearly 470 Nigerians from its southwestern city of Sebha.
In October, Libyan security forces stopped a Ghanaian man attempting to cross into Libya and forced him to return to a military post in Niger.
In November, the Libyan and Italian foreign ministers met to discuss the flow of illegal immigration. Libya and Italy discussed starting sea patrols in order to reduce the flow of illegal migration. According to Italian officials, more than 300 boats from Libya arrived in Italy from January to October.
In mid-November, Libya deported 420 Malians from Sebha. By the end of November, over 9,000 migrants had been deported from Sebha, mainly to Niger, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. During November alone, it repatriated roughly 1,100 people from Sebha.
Law and Policy
Libya has no Memorandum of Understanding with UNHCR but does allow UNHCR to conduct RSDs under its mandate and issue letters of attestation to those it grants. An increase in applications, however, contributes to an eight-month delay for an appointment with the agency.
Libya has readmission agreements with Italy and the United Kingdom, cooperates closely with the EU border agency Frontex and other European countries to block migrants.
Detention/Access to Courts
Refugees receive no government documents affirming their right to stay in the country. UNHCR issues refugees letters attesting to their protected status but authorities do not always recognize them. A 2005 law allows foreigners and refugees UNHCR recognizes to receive a permit (red card) for a stay of up to three months while they fulfill the necessary requirements for a residence permit (green card).
Freedom of Movement and Residence
Libya issues no international travel documents to refugees.
Right to Earn a Livelihood
In general, refugees do not have the right to run businesses, obtain necessary licenses, or own property, but the Government allows a few Palestinian and Iraqi refugees to run businesses.
Public Relief and Education