‘We can no longer turn our backs’ on communities affected by migration crisis in Libya – UN agency chief

IOM Director General William Lacy Swing speaks to migrants at a detention centre in Tripoli, Libya on 22 March 2017. Photo: IOM/Leonard Doyle

23 March 2017 – The top United Nations migration official is visiting Tripoli to discuss the complex migration and displacement situation with hopes of shoring up technical support to foster a stable environment.

“Libya, once a booming economy which many hopeful migrants viewed as a prized destination, is today a country beset by a grave security situation, a collapsing economy and virtually no service provision which is worsening an increasingly complex migration situation,” said William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in a press statement.

The statement emphasized that fostering a stable environment to bring about a much-needed holistic approach to migration governance is now a priority.

There are different migratory flows moving through and towards Libya, driven by underdevelopment, State fragility, marginalization and security threats in West Africa, East Africa and the Middle East. These are compounded by political insecurity and conflict, which further exacerbate existing vulnerabilities of the affected communities, including Libyans themselves, according to IOM.

Mr. Swing will meet with the Interior Minister of the Government of National Accord, Alaref Al Khoja and the Chairman of the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord, Fayes Al Sarraj to discuss how IOM can strengthen its technical support to these communities within Libya.

“As humanitarians, we can no longer turn our back on the communities affected by the current migration crisis in Libya,” Ambassador Swing underscored. “This is why IOM is enhancing its support to the most vulnerable people in the country – be they migrants or Libyans,” he added.

There are an estimated 303,608 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Libya, according to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix. A majority have been displaced from areas in the north-east and north-west of the country, particularly in Sirte and some parts of Benghazi.

Displaced Libyans are suffering from a lack of access to essential services, including medical assistance and economy opportunities. IOM works with local government and communities to promote stability and development for IDPs, migrants and local host communities in Libya. It is also helping to establish a better system of managing the migration situation on the ground.

Mr. Swing will also meet with migrants at Triq Al Sekka detention centre, where he will speak to Ahmed Issa, Head of the Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration, about how IOM can offer continued support, such as through direct assistance, infrastructure development and voluntary humanitarian return.

Due to the situation, many migrants are turning to IOM for help getting home. Since 2011, IOM has helped 13,691 migrants get home to safety. Just this week, the UN agency assisted 160 stranded migrants return from Tripoli to Cote d'Ivoire.

IOM stresses that increased support to voluntary humanitarian returns is essential to improving migration management and a long-term commitment to forging links between effective reintegration schemes, stability and local development potential in communities of return.

The UN migration agency is launching an Action Plan for Libya to work with the authorities to address the many challenges faced by migrants, IDPs, returnees and the affected Libyan population. The two key objectives of the approach are to urgently provide humanitarian assistance and protection to affected populations in Libya and contribute to stability, build capacities and resilience of Libyan authorities, as well as the affected populations themselves.


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