Situation Still Desperate for Refugees and Migrants in Libya
The last few months of 2020 were particularly treacherous for refugees and migrants in Libya. In October, IOM reported increased violence, abuse and excessive use of force against migrants, as well as an increase in reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. November and December were the deadliest months of the year for those trying to cross the Mediterranean following a devastating series of shipwrecks. The number of interceptions also increased as the year ended, bringing the total number of migrants returned to Libyan shores in 2020 to almost 12,000, with many of those returned remaining detained or missing. Movement and labour restrictions imposed because of COVID-19 have continued to negatively impact migrant communities and have increased their vulnerability.
In December, Marwa Mohamed, Head of Advocacy and Outreach, joined Libyan activist Asma Khalifa and UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, on a panel hosted by Cordaid and KUNO to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the humanitarian crisis in Libya and the implications for refugees and migrants. Mohamed said, “Covid has exacerbated the vulnerability of refugees and migrants by creating a heightened sense of xenophobia, further restricting their already limited access to healthcare, and diminishing their ability to earn a daily wage.”
On International Migrants Day (18 December 2020), LFJL further launched a social media campaign intended to draw attention to these specific issues. The campaign calls uponthe EU to immediately cease its support and funding of any of the activities of the Libyan Coast Guard that lead to the interception and return of migrants to Libya. Libya is a country that is not safe for return under any circumstances.
Since the last reporting period, LFJL has continued to engage in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process conducted by the UN Human Rights Council. Ahead of Libya’s review session which took place on 11 November 2020, LFJL conducted some advocacy in order for UN Member States to make key recommendations to Libya to improve its human rights records, including regarding migrants and refugees. As such, LFJL took part in a virtual panel at the UN and made a statement to express key concerns while providing specific recommendations to the Libyan authorities. The rights of migrants and refugees is a priority issue identified by LFJL and other members of the Coalition of Libyan Human Rights Organisations. Their recommendations emphasize the crucial need for accountability to end the cycle of violence against refugees and migrants and calls upon the Libyan authorities to ratify the 1951 Refugee convention and adhere to their international obligations regarding human rights law. A summary of all the key facts and recommendations on this issue can be found here.
Throughout 2021, LFJL will continue its programming aimed at improving the situation of refugees and migrants and providing access to justice for those that have experienced violations in Libya. Activities will include monitoring the outcome of the recent UPR and continuing to hold the Libyan authorities accountable through this mechanism. LFJL will also be working on a project to document and seek accountability for crimes against humanity, including slavery and human trafficking committed against migrants in Libya.
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