Routes to Justice for Migrants in Libya

by Lawyers for Justice in Libya
Routes to Justice for Migrants in Libya

Since our last project report, LFJL has continued to investigate and document the human rights abuses committed against refugees and migrants in Libya. Our investigations have focused on a variety of incidents including an explosion at a migrant detention centre in Gharyan on 20 June 2021, reportedly caused by ammunition that was being stored at the centre. We have also been investigating a decision issued by the Municipality of Zuwara in July in which migrants were given 10 days to either settle their status or leave the city. Reportedly, after the decision and the 10-day notice period, between 60 and 80 migrants were arbitrarily arrested in the city.

In June, LFJL made a joint submission to the UN Human Rights Committee with partner REDRESS requesting reparation from Libya for an Eritrean asylum-seeker who was a victim of torture and other grave human rights violations whilst being arbitrarily detained in the country. The submission also recommended that, to ensure such acts do not happen again, Libya should adopt legislation to prevent violations against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and train public officials on their rights.

LFJL also recently made a submission to the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM) and encouraged and supported other Libyan civil society organisations in making their own submissions to the UN body, which was established in June 2020 to document violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law by all parties involved in Libya since the beginning of 2016. LFJL’s submission included documentation of violations and abuses committed against refugees and migrants, including human trafficking and war crimes. As a key step towards accountability in Libya, LFJL has recently emphasized the critical need for the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the FFM later this month.

On 20 June, LFJL marked World Refugee Day with a social media campaign underlining that international protection should be guaranteed for refugees and migrants fleeing human rights violations in Libya. The campaign drew attention to the spirit of the 1951 Refugee Convention and called on European States, most of which adopted the Convention, and the Libyan authorities to immediately stop returns to Libya and provide safe and legal passage to Europe.

In a webinar hosted by Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor on 30 July, Senior Programmes Officer, Elise Flecher discussed impunity in Libya and the role of the EU and the UN, particularly with regards to the arms embargo and the situation of refugees and migrants. She reiterated the importance of implementing proactive search and rescue missions by European states of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean and ensuring that cooperation with the Libyan authorities is contingent on human rights guarantees.

What’s next?

Our work to document and seek accountability for human trafficking and other human rights violations committed against refugees and migrants in Libya is set to continue over the coming months. We are currently preparing a legal submission to an international body and will be releasing a public report detailing our findings before the end of the year.

To receive regular updates about our work across all of our programmes, you can subscribe to our newsletter. The whole of the LFJL team wishes to thank you for your support. 


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So far this year, LFJL has been focusing its efforts on investigating and documenting the human rights abuses committed against refugees and migrants in Libya, including human trafficking, with the aim of reaching accountability for these crimes. 

LFJL is currently working on a joint project to document, analyse and seek accountability for the widespread human rights violations committed against refugees and migrants in Libya since 2011. As part of this project, LFJL has engaged with, and interviewed, refugees and migrants who went through Libya. Testimonies described how refugees and migrants continue to face arbitrary and indefinite detention, torture, extortion, forced labour and sexual and gender-based violence. As part of the protocol for interviewing survivors, we conducted a mapping of the psychosocial and legal services available for the refugees located across Europe and Africa, and established referral mechanisms in case the individuals that participated required further support.  

Additionally, we are also working closely with an asylum-seeker from sub-Saharan Africa who was a victim of trafficking, arbitrary detention and torture in Libya. Together with a partner organisation, we are supporting them in seeking justice by preparing a case file for a submission to a relevant international mechanism. 

Following up our social media campaign launched on International Migrants Day back in December, on Europe Day, celebrated on 9 May, LFJL drew attention to problematic European policies that trap vulnerable refugees and migrants in Libya. Such policies, aimed at keeping refugees and migrants away from Europe’s borders, violate European foundation principles of unity, inclusion and human rights. Libya remains severely dangerous for refugees and migrantsand we urge European governments and institutions to open safe and legal routes to Europe. 

Finally, on 16 March, Libya’s third Universal Periodic Review came to an end with the adoption of the outcome report by the UN Human Rights Council. The outcome report outlined the recommendations made by other United Nations Member States on the measures that Libya should take to improve the human rights situation in the country, noting which recommendations Libya accepted and which they did not. Out of the 285 recommendations received, Libya only accepted 181 and noted 104. Many of the recommendations on protecting the human rights of refugees anmigrants were not accepted by Libya, including the recommendation to end arbitrary and indefinite detentionBy failing to accept these recommendations (or “noting” them), Libya refused to commit to take steps to implement them. In response, LFJL and other Libyan partner organisations published an open letter calling on Libya to accept all 285 recommendations, including to end the criminalisation of the entry, stay and exit of migrants and the resulting system of automatic detention 

What’s next? 

Our work to investigate human trafficking and other crimes committed against refugees and migrants in Libya will continue over the coming months. Findings from our joint projects will be released later this year so keep an eye out for them. 

We also hope to follow-up on our work with organisations working with refugees who have spent time in Libya, particularly those based in the UK, in an effort to help provide much needed support to survivors. 

Toreceiveregularupdatesabout our work acrossall ofour programmes, you cansubscribe toournewsletter.The LFJL team thanks you for supporting our work.

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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 12,000with 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 Outreachjoined 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 lawA summary of all the key facts and recommendations on this issue can be found here. 

What’s next? 

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 LibyaActivities will include monitoring the outcome of the recent UPR and continuing to hold the Libyan authorities accountable through this mechanismLFJL 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.  

To receive regular updates about our work across all of our programmes, you can subscribe to our newsletter. The LFJL team thanks you for supporting our work. 

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#RoutesToJustice: LFJL continues to Speak Truth to Power on the dire conditions facing migrants in Libya

Although our advocacy and accountability efforts on the ground continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, LFJL has continued to stay vocal about the plight of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Libya over the past few months.

In June, LFJL’s co-founder and Director, Elham Saudi, appeared on IGTV with George The Poet, following their collaboration on Episode 7 of George’s podcast (Have You Heard George’s Podcast) in 2019. Against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter protests reignited by the murder of George Floyd, George and Elham discussed how to create solutions beyond social media noise, based on their experiences with the Libyan Slave Trade story that broke in 2017. Elham reflected on her own experiences of holding powerful actors accountable and provided insight into how to have meaningful conversations with decision makers. She highlighted the importance of fact-finding, documentation work, and directing the ‘noise’ to the people who hold the influence. LFJL continues to do this through its podcast Libya Matters, which it has been working on for the past few months ahead of the launch of Season 2. The new season will continue to discuss themes affecting the rights and treatment of migrants, and advocate for their protection, with an upcoming episode set to critically examine accountability mechanisms for European Migration policy.

LFJL has also been monitoring the volatile situation for migrants in Libya given ongoing COVID-19 concerns. On May 21st we co-hosted a live discussion on conflict, COVID and Libya, chaired by LFJL’s Head of Advocacy and Outreach, Marwa Mohamed. The event concluded a series of opinion pieces published in partnership with openDemocracy, “Libya, between conflict and pandemic”, and facilitated an informed discussion with the authors of the pieces about the intensified conflict, the collapsed healthcare system, and the threat of coronavirus from a human rights perspective.

What’s next?

LFJL will continue to engage in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process conducted by the UN Human Rights Council by submitting further advocacy material that highlights issues faced by migrants in Libya, including arbitrary detention, forced labour, sexual exploitation, and torture. We will also be publishing our recommendations to protect the human rights of migrants and refugees, drawn from our earlier report submitted ahead of Libya’s UPR.

Season 2 of Libya Matters can be found on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and all other major platforms. New episodes released every Wednesday.

We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of the project through GlobalGiving, however please don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list to remain updates and follow all of our work across our programmes. Many thanks again, from all the LFJL team, for supporting our work!

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#RoutesToJustice: Escalating violence and COVID-19 disproportionately affect the migrants and refugees in Libya 

In recent months, Libya has seen a dramatic upsurge in violence coupled with the new challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting migrants and refugees in Libya in a particularly vulnerable situationRecent estimates suggest there are 654,000 migrants and refugees living in Libya. Due to increased violence and COVID-19 concerns, there has been an increase in the number of refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. As of 1 May, 3,078 refugees and migrants have been registered as intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard and disembarked in Libya, most of whom have been arbitrarily detained and transferred to detention centres.  

Despite the current global pandemic, LFJL continues to engage in advocacy and accountability projects remotely to promote the well-being and protection of migrants and refugees in Libya.  

On 1 April, the European Union launched Operation IRINI, which prioritizes the enforcement of the UN arms embargo on Libya. LFJL's Head of Advocacy and Outreach Marwa Mohameddiscussed the launch of this new operation in her op-ed Business as Usual for the EU Causes the Suffering of Migrants and Refugees in Libya". Mohamed wrote, EU policy on Libya including bilateral agreements such as the Memorandum oUnderstanding with Italy has proven problematic from its conception, and with the establishment of Operation IRINI the complete disregard of the situation in Libya and consequences of further engagement with the Libyan Coast Guard continues to expand”.  

In late April, LFJL made a joint statement with 12 other human rights organizations to call for EU institutions to stop any actions trapping migrants and refugees in LibyaThe call follows the submission, by a consortium of organisations including the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), ASGI,and ARCI, ofacomplaint to theEuropean Court of Auditors(ECA), requestingan investigation into the EU’s cooperation with Libya, including the spending of funds. The investigation aims at determiningwhether the EU has breached its own financial regulations, as well as its human rights obligations, in its support for Libyan border management. The organisations' call arguesthat the EU also failed to ensure that its funds were not used for activities potentially violating human rights. 

This month, we launched a series of opinion pieces in partnership with openDemocracy, Libya: between conflict and pandemic, which examines Libya’s response to the pandemic amidst conflict, from a human rights perspective. As part of this initiative, LFJL's Head of Advocacy and Outreach Marwa Mohamed published a piece entitled “Locked up with no escape: refugees and migrants in Libya face bombs, virus and everything in between”. The article examines the bleak situation faced by refugees and migrants in Libya. Mohamed discusses the arbitrary detention of refugees in state-run detention centres, the lack of legal framework to organize the migration and refugee situation, the lack of access to healthcare, and the serious human rights violations to which migrants and refugees are exposed. 


What’s next? 

On 21 May at 13:00 BST, LFJL will be hosting a live Zoom webinar which will explore how the ongoing conflict and pandemic impact human rights in Libya, including for refugees and migrants. The event will be available here 

We are currently working on the second season of Libya Matters, a podcast which challenges the mainstream international coverage of Libya andhighlightingunder-reported parts of the Libyan story, including raising awareness about the experiences of refugees and migrants in Libya.  Keep an eye out in July for the launch of our newest episode! 

We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of the project throughGlobalGiving, however please don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing listto stay up to date with all of our work across ourprogrammes. Many thanks again from all the LFJL team for supporting our work! 

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Organization Information

Lawyers for Justice in Libya

Location: London - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @libyanjustice
Project Leader:
Chloe Dennis
London, United Kingdom
$13,108 raised of $20,000 goal
232 donations
$6,892 to go
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