The continuing conflict in Libya is impacting the health & welfare of the average Libyan in a way that many people aren't aware of outside of the capital city.
Since the offensive by LNA forces at the beginning of April, Tripoli's sanitation services have been cut-off from the region's main landfill, some 50 km. outside of the city. This has led local authorities to dump the city's rubbish at a makeshift site on the outskirts of the city still under GNA control.
The haphazard nature of the garbage dumping has created a sanitation crisis for nearby residents, who worry about a negative impact on their health. Some locals have described the growing garbage piles as being "higher than passing cars".
While collection & disposal have continued unabated in Tripoli's wealthier neighbourhoods, they have become increasingly less frequent in other parts of the city. This has resulted in many residents dumping their household waste on the streets. The problem has progressed to the point that some people have taken matters into their own hands, standing guard over their homes to ensure no one illegally dumps trash in their vicinity.
While life has continued with less disruption during the current fighting than one might expect in certain areas, the growing garbage crisis is beginning to take its toll. Civilian infrastructure in the capital is growing increasingly strained, and it is only a matter of time before a breakdown.
Outside the GNA’s headquarters in central Tripoli, displaced people try to catch the attention of officials at the entrance gate. “All I need is a rent to survive with my family. I’m not asking for the impossible,” one women told guards earlier this month.
Most of the newly displaced are women, children or elderly, said Yousef Galala, state minister of internally displaced people’s affairs. The GNA had allocated 120 million Libyan dinars ($85.7 million) in aid, and was considering an additional 100 million, he said.
But displaced families living in cramped huts at a shelter located in a disused factory in Tripoli’s eastern suburb of Tajoura said they had seen no sign of the aid. “We fear severe shortages of food and medical supplies since the length of the conflict is draining our reserves,” said Mohamed al-Shukri of the Tripoli Red Crescent, whose volunteers work in 35 such shelters.
Conditions at shelters that have sprung up across Tripoli are tough. At another shelter in a dilapidated state-run hotel near Tajoura, a mother carried a toddler in her arms. “I can’t leave my daughter walking alone because of broken banisters, and look at the windows,” she said, pointing at empty panes. “What will we do in winter in such conditions.”
Rwanda has offered African Migrants in Libya the chance to relocate and live a better life.
The East African country says it would provide the migrants scrambling for greener pastures in the war-torn North African country work permits and freedom of movement in an effort to lure them out of current predicaments.
According to sources with knowledge of the development, Rwanda had also agreed to provide the migrants access to education and identification documents. Human Rights advocates have welcomed the commitment of the Rwandan government to be held with the inhumane migrant situation in Libya. “The embassy also assured the congress officials that all refugees in Rwanda would have protection and that nobody would be forcibly repatriated,” an official told The EastAfrican.
The deal would answer two main concerns of human-rights groups—free movement and protection of the refugees and it is not clear if the relocation would be on a permanent or temporary basis.
Five hundred refugees are expected to relocate from Libya under the deal but Rwanda said it could take as high as 30,000 under an “emergency transit mechanism” funded by the EU and the UN.
The EastAfrican reports that Rwanda is working out the final details with UNHCR and the Libyan government and the country is “ready to go as soon as they get the green light.”
There are at least 641,398 migrants who originated from more than 39 countries currently present in Libya. They were identified in all 100 municipalities, within 565 communities, according to the 25th round of the International Organisation for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) data collection, which took place in March, April and May 2019.
A charity that operates a rescue ship carrying more than a hundred migrants off the coast of Italy on Sunday said that it could not accept an offer from Spain to dock in Algeciras, citing an emergency situation on board.
The migrants, most of whom are African, were picked up by the Open Arms boat off the coast of Libya and have been waiting to disembark on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.
“We do not accept Spain as a port to go because we are in a state of extreme humanitarian emergency. What they need is to be disembarked now,” Open Arms’ spokeswoman said.
“It is unthinkable to navigate for six days; that is what it would takes for us to arrive to Algeciras.”
‘We are in a state of humanitarian emergency,’ Open Arms’s Laura Lanuza said.
After the charity rejected the plan to go to Algeciras, in southern Spain, the Spanish government offered the captain of the boat the option to dock at the nearest Spanish port, but the prime minister’s office said the government had not received an answer, Reuters reported on Sunday evening.An Open Arms spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters that the boat still had not answered Spain’s proposal.
France has offered to take in 40 people from the Open Arms, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told AFP on Sunday.
At least four migrants, wearing life vests, jumped into the sea to try to swim to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Open Arms founder Oscar Camps tweeted a video of the attempt, saying: “We have been warning for days, desperation has its limits.”
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Saturday reluctantly authorised 27 migrant children rescued at sea to disembark from the charity vessel anchored in limbo off Lampedusa for days.
In a letter, Salvini told Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte he could authorise the “alleged” minors to leave the Open Arms ship despite it being “divergent to my orientation”.
However, the remaining 105 adults and two accompanied children must stay on board in what the charity Proactiva Open Arms said were “untenable” conditions.
The General Secretariat of the Libyan Red Crescent Society confirmed Monday, the reception of about 1,200 food packets at its branch in Kufra Municipality, southeast of Libya, to be distributed to deserving families in the area.
The Secretariat explained, via its Facebook page that the aid was provided by the World Food Program (WFP), pointing out that the shipment will be distributed to the needy families, registered with the Red Crescent branch in Kufra.
Additionally, a fifth group of Sudanese nationals repatriated from Libya, which consist of 153 migrants has arrived at Khartoum Airport. The migrants were reportedly gathered from accommodation centres for migrants in Libya, as part of the Joint European Initiative to protect migrants, with funding from the European Union and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
This takes part of the plan by the GNA Interior Ministry to close down the migration centres in Misurata, Khoms, and Tajoura.
Migrants trapped in Libyan detention centres where many have been subjected to abuse would be evacuated to Rwanda under an emergency plan being discussed with international humanitarian agencies and the EU.
The proposal is part of an increasingly urgent effort to relocate thousands of migrants from Libya after a July air strike by forces opposed to the internationally recognised government in Tripoli killed dozens of people in a detention centre in the capital.
The Rwandan initiative stems from president Paul Kagame’s offer in late 2017 to accept up to 30,000 African migrants from Libya over several years, although it will initially involve a much smaller number of people. The EU is facing growing criticism over the plight of migrants as conflict worsens in Libya.
The EU-trained Libyan coastguard has been instrumental in stopping people making the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe, but rescued migrants are then sent to detention centres. Human rights groups have documented multiple cases of rape, torture and other crimes at the facilities, some of which are run by militias.
But sceptics warn that evacuating migrants from Libya to Rwanda would not necessarily rescue them from their current limbo, unable to go home or to travel onwards. Marwa Mohamed, head of advocacy for Lawyers for Justice in Libya, a non-governmental group with offices in London and Tripoli, said the Rwanda plan risked “outsourcing the problem to another country”.
She added that the only viable long-term solution was for European countries to offer more pathways to migration, such as via resettlement or temporary working visas. “If you provide them with these legal routes, they don’t need to submit themselves into the hands of people smugglers and traffickers,” she said.
The UN estimates almost 5,000 migrants are in detention centres in Libya, about 70 per cent of them refugees and asylum seekers. The migrants earmarked for relocation are likely to be a mix of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors and stateless people.
The centres in question are in Misrata, Tajoura and Khoms. Organisations that monitor the situation in Libya fear these closures may lead to even more overcrowding in the remaining centres. They also fear the possibility of many more migrants being left in the hands of traffickers.
The UN last month called for the dismantling of all detention centres for refugees in Libya, saying the facilities were not fit to house migrants.
Detainees in various centres have described routine torture, rape, malnutrition and the spread of diseases like tuberculosis due to the conditions they are forced to endure.
Campaign group Amnesty International has called conditions "horrific" and "inhuman".
"These detention centres, at least some of them, they work on a business model that involves smugglers, traffickers, sometimes forced labour," the UN refugee agency's top official in Libya, Jean-Paul Cavalieri, told the BBC.
Many African migrants hoping to reach Europe have been sold at slave markets in Libya, often as sex slaves or construction workers.
It is believed there are 12 detention centres in western Libya nominally run by the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.
Libya's plans to close three of the centres follows criticism that migrants were being returned to Tajoura after it was hit by a deadly missile attack in July.
That "outrageous" attack could amount to a war crime, said the UN's Libya envoy Ghassan Salamé and top human rights official Michelle Bachelet.
But the UN Security Council failed to condemn it after the US declined to endorse a joint statement, according to diplomats.
Tajoura Detention Centre is close to the capital, Tripoli, where there is ongoing fighting between the UN-recognised government and the Benghazi-based Libyan National Army which has vowed to take over the city.
Gender-based violence is the main reason why Nigerian women leave their country for Italy. Violence by men pushes women towards the edges of Nigerian society and eventually forces many to seek a way to leave.
That's the main conclusion of the report "Mondi connessi. La migrazione femminile dalla Nigeria all'Italia e la sorte delle donne rimpatriate" (Connected Worlds: Female Migration from Nigeria to Italy and the Fate of Repatriated Women). It was drafted by the international NGO ActionAid in collaboration with BeFree, a cooperative against trafficking, violence, and discrimination. The authors analysed 60 reports of the hearings of Nigerian women noted as alleged victims of human trafficking at the Rome territorial commission for the granting of international protection between 2016 and 2017.
In 61 percent of the cases analysed, the main reason the women left was gender-based violence against them - that includes violence against them inside and outside of their homes, as well as forced marriage attempts. Some 33.3 percent of women fled extreme poverty.
Almost all of the women that gave testimonies were from the Edo state in Nigeria, where human trafficking is endemic due to economic, political, and socio-political conditions. Most of them were young - 66 percent of the women were between 19 and 24 years old.
"Gender differences become [...] gender inequality: being a woman means having less power, fewer resources, and more difficulty to access education and employment. Being a woman is attributed to an inferior status, a lack, non-value," said Livia Zoli, head of the Global Inequality & Migration unit of ActionAid.
"A gender-based approach is indispensable to understand the different forms of expulsion from society, both in the original context and in the one they reach." She added: "This is one of the crucial aspects of the relationship: Trafficking is one of the tools held by male power to commit violence [against women]."
The trafficking and sexual exploitation of young Nigerian women have increased sharply in recent years in Italy. Some 11,009 Nigerian women landed on Italian coasts in 2016, compared with about 5,000 in 2015 and 1,500 in 2014, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The UN organisation estimates that about 80 percent of these women and girls are potential victims of human trafficking.
According to reports citing Julien Raickmann, Doctors without Borders (MSF) chief in Libya, “Those interned there, mainly refugees, keep dying of diseases and hunger,” “They are victims of violence, rape and arbitrary treatment at the hands of militias,” Raickmann added.
Benjamin Gaudin of aid organisation Première Urgence Internationale (PUI) echoed Raickmann’s statement. “Sometimes, the refugees are literally piled up on top of each other, under horrendous hygienic conditions and with great difficulty to access water,” Gaudin said. “Every now and then, there’s no drinking water whatsoever.”
Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s special emissary for the central Mediterranean area, said the EU couldn’t just continue with the agreed repatriations. “In a sense, the European countries are blind to the situation of migrants in Libya.”
The youngest fighting in Libya had exacerbated the situation, Cochetel added, referring to the offensive Libyan general Khalifa Haftar launched in April to capture Tripoli. More than one thousand people have died as a result, according to UN estimates. This adds to several clips released by several news outlets in February showcasing camps run by human traffickers. In one clip, a man is seen lying on the ground and screaming in pain from a blow torch directed at the soles of his feet. Another man was hanging head-down from the ceiling with a gun pointed at him. The militias were hoping to extort money from the victims’ families.
Desperation among the refugees was so great that in May, a man jumped off his shaky boat into the sea when he saw the Libyan coast guard approaching. German private sea rescue organisation Sea-Watch recorded the situation.
Rejecting the criticism, the EU said their agreement with Libya and specifically with the Libyan Coast Guard, had significantly reduced the number of refugee arrivals in Italy.
The European Commission (EC) also defended the course of action, arguing that some €336 million have been collected since 2014 for programs in connection with migrants in Libya.
However, the Council of European last month called for an end of the cooperation with the Libyan coast guard amid the devastating conditions.
The Libyan coast guard, meanwhile, argued that Libya was a “victim” of the migration flows. General Ajub Kacem said refugees were a “burden” for the country. He accused the EU of "lacking concern" for refugees’ fate.
Late on the night of July 2, the Tajoura detention center in Libya was hit by an airstrike, killing at least 60 refugees and migrants held there and injuring many others. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had warned about the dangers for months, calling for the urgent evacuation of vulnerable people trapped in a war zone. Sam Turner, MSF head of mission in Libya, writes about a horrific tragedy that should have been avoided, and who is to blame. A version of this article originally appeared in the British newspaper The Independent.
“When I arrived to Tajoura detention centre at 12:45 a.m. [on July 3], it was crammed with ambulances outside. The building that was hit was all but destroyed—the walls crumbled, debris everywhere. In place of the cell, there was just a huge hole. There was no one still alive in that room. I saw bodies everywhere, and body parts sticking out from under the rubble. Blood all around. At some point, I had to stop, I couldn’t go further inside the ruins as there were too many dead. I would have to walk over the bodies to proceed…. I knew many of the dead by name, I knew their stories.”
These are the words of a Libyan MSF doctor following the fatal airstrike on Tajoura detention centre late at night on July 2, that killed an estimated 60 people and injured 70 others. It is a night that will forever remain etched in this doctor’s memory—and the memories of all MSF staff in Libya—as a horrific nightmare. A night in which our worst fears would come to pass, fears which we have voiced for months in the futile hope that unnecessary suffering and death would be avoided.
Minutes after the airstrikes, our staff, who had returned from a visit to that same detention centre merely hours before, started to receive frantic calls. They rushed to the scene but there was little they could do. The over 130 innocent men and boys whose eyes they’d looked into earlier that day stood no chance, locked in the cell when the explosion tore through them.
I had been in Tajoura just two months earlier on May 8, the day after [an earlier incident when an] airstrike hit the detention centre. On that occasion, shrapnel from the blast tore through the roof of the women’s cell and nearly hit a baby sleeping on a thin mattress on the hard floor.
I can’t help but think of the people I might have met during my visits to Tajoura who were to be entombed in their cell. I remember the scared faces I saw in May, with any hope for their safety long forgotten. They protested their unending detention to us. We in turn raised the alarm, calling for the United Kingdom [and European Union governments] to reverse and oppose policies which trap people in these centres, and to support the immediate and urgent evacuation out of Libya of refugees and migrants held in arbitrary detention. We were adamant that there was no way this could continue.
But it did continue. This latest airstrike was the deadliest incident for civilians since the beginning of the fighting in Tripoli—accounting for over half of the civilian deaths, according to figures from the World Health Organisation. Beyond the fighting, instability in Libya exposes refugees and migrants to extremely high risks; they are preyed upon by the [criminal] underworld, traffickers, smugglers, and all those willing to exploit them for personal gain. These detention centres are places of indefinite incarceration with unspeakable conditions and no way out. Places where people are forgotten.
Less than one percent of the estimated population of refugees and migrants in Libya are in detention centres—approximately 5,600 people in total. In recent days we have seen strengthened calls from United Nations agencies and even the European Union, joining MSF in calling resolutely for an end to arbitrary detention in Libya. However, it is not simply about unlocking the doors, providing an illusion of freedom, and allowing politicians to wash their hands and conscience of the problem. Those who walk out of detention with empty pockets and nothing on their backs are still caught in the crossfire of a war that isn’t theirs, within the grasp of criminal networks and looking towards a precarious and uncertain future.
In the absence of timely solutions that offer any real hope, the only escape is the sea, and here is where the greatest hypocrisy lies. Since fighting began in Tripoli in April, the EU-supported Libyan Coastguard has returned four times as many people to Libya than have been evacuated or resettled to safe countries, according to UN figures. [On July 9], 90 people intercepted at sea were forcibly returned to Tajoura. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt denounced the airstrike on Twitter, but his words mean little while the EU governments continue to prop up the Libyan Coastguard.
The carnage in Tajoura was foreseen and should have been avoided. The international community waited until it happened and then condemned it, promising investigations. Who has named the dead? Informed their families or laid them to rest?
To add insult to fatal injury, despite the outrage following the attack, there are still 193 people detained in the graveyard of Tajoura, with the number growing every day.
Out of respect for all those who lost their lives, we must do everything in our power to stop this recurring nightmare. MSF calls, once again, for the immediate closure of Tajoura detention centre and the evacuation of all detained refugees and migrants out of Libya. The forced return of people fleeing Libya must stop, the cycle must be broken.