Just assume you are in your home; suddenly, due to the violence and hatred instilled in people based on the worldly greed of power, conflicts arise within the community that lead to mass murder and a massacre of the innocent. In fact, this is what we see in many parts of the world, particularly in Syria, Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan, Libya and elsewhere. This ruthlessness aims at destroying people by targeting innocent women, men and children.
So, when that persecution comes at your door, the only solution is flight from that insecurity to save your lives. You would take whoever could come with you having hopes for finding a secure shelter for your loved ones. Yes, in those circumstances, you would become a refugee or an internally displaced person, and this would not be an arbitrary decision, but the only way out of a dire situation that would only bring death and misery.
And this is what we see in Libya; thousands of refugees and migrants have fled from their homeland and crossed the borders of the country to look for a better life with hopes for safety, income and a future. These are refugees from Eritrea, Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan and Syria, and since 2011 there are an increasing number of people who have sought protection in Libya; some of them have special needs as they have encountered savagery in their countries and had to leave behind their families and all their belongings. As of April 2014, a total of 9,240 refugees and 26,298 asylum seekers were registered with the UNHCR in Libya and still, a significant number of migrants continue to enter the country using irregular channels. Yet they are in a conundrum right now as the violence in the country is escalating.
In the past months, due to clashes which have disrupted social integrity and security, most diplomats as well as foreign workers in Libya have evacuated the country through assistance from their governments or employers. But there are tens of thousands of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in Libya who are in the hands of people smugglers that promise them a route for escape in return of at least $1,000. Migrants are moved across Libya’s Sahara Desert by gangs and at the coast they are handed over to agents who find them boats from smugglers. Even during the time of Gaddafi, Libya was already a hub for the human trafficking trade. For asylum seekers who flee persecution in their countries, Libya is like a point of departure with hopes to cross the Mediterranean to reach southern Italy and from there, safe passage to other cities in Europe. The number of boats now departing Libya for Europe has increased from about five a day prior to the current conflict to 15 a day. Now, thousands of people – mainly sub-Saharan Africans – are trying to escape war in their adopted homeland Libya by getting on overcrowded and leaking boats. Many of the passengers perish during the journey, and over 1,000 people have died in the Mediterranean this year alone. Others arrive exhausted from the high seas journey and according to estimates, one out of ten people die during the sea journey from Libya. Those migrants and asylum seekers who have to remain in Libya because they cannot afford to pay smugglers to get them on boats are vulnerable to the threat of violence, kidnapping and arrest. These are the tens of thousands of migrant construction workers, service staff, care-givers and employees that have found no means of escape and stay in Libya despite the bloody conflict. Even though some make their choice to stay and work, others are willing to leave but they receive no assistance from their consulates or support from their employers. Migrant workers have also been part of the ongoing conflict and have been subjected to kidnappings, physical and sexual violence. They are not only at risk of grave security threats, but they can also find no way out of the conflict zone or passage to a safe shelter. Almost 37,000 migrants are registered with the UNHCR’s offices in Tripoli and Benghazi, and they are living in badly destroyed areas but are unable to leave to safer areas due to the ongoing clashes.
Internally displaced persons is another concern in Libya as 550,000 people were displaced during the revolution: Even if the large majority have been able to return to their homes, some 59,425 people still face a situation of displacement waiting for their homes to be repaired or rebuilt. They are kept in detention centers in extremely poor conditions that are overcrowded; food and medical assistance are inadequate, and there is serious lack of sanitation. There are political reasons for their displacement, since many were forced to desert their towns and villages because of their perceived support for Gaddafi and alleged crimes committed during the conflict; different armed groups hold them as prisoners and subject them to ill treatment and exploitation for labor.
Another issue standing in the face of the internally displaced persons and migrants is discrimination even if many of them have lived in Libya for several years and established homes; their situation is similar to the refugees. Owing to their settlement and ties, they would like to remain in Libya, but they face increased risk to their personal and family security in an atmosphere of fear. At the end of the day, refugees and migrants live in very difficult or dire situations throughout Libya, persecuted either by armed militias or criminal gangs and smugglers.
Hence, there is an urgent requirement for law and order to be established in the country as different groups are committing a wide variety of crimes in Libya, but these are not being investigated or prosecuted properly because of a lack of a stable judiciary system. The Libyan people should take the major role of acting in unison to establish peace in order to overcome this and the many other crises currently afflicting their country. Libya will not return to any semblance of stability until unity is achieved first.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Voix Magazine: