Routes to Justice for Migrants in Libya

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

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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LFJL is committed to providing routes to justice for migrants and asylum-seekers who have experienced abuses and human rights violations in Libya. Over the past few months, LFJL has been actively involved in advocacy and outreach and has been vocal both nationally and internationally in its pursuit for justice for migrants in Libya. 

LFJL’s Head of Advocacy and Outreach, Marwa Mohamed, has attended several events on migration over the past few months. On 18 November 2019, Mohamed was in Rome representing LFJL on a panel discussion on migration, organised by SaferWorld and Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI). At the event, Mohamed discussed the problematic nature of the Libyan Coast Guard and its training, how the unconditional cooperation with Libyan authorities is harmful and how irresponsible EU policies are exacerbating the issue.  

On 20 November 2019, Mohamed attended a roundtable discussion at the European Parliament in Brussels, organised by the International Commission of Jurists. In that occasion, she discussed the arbitrary detention of thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Libya. She also emphasised the systemic human rights violations and abuses being committed against them, and the absence of options for protection, repatriation and return, including as a result of EU states’ policies.  

We have also been providing legal advice and engaging with diverse stakeholders including law firms and human rights organisations to collaborate on bringing cases of human rights violations in Libya before domestic jurisdictions. This has allowed us to further lay the groundwork for strategic litigation in relation to cases of migrants who have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment in Libya. 

What's next?

To follow up from our last UPR report, LFJL is now entering a new phase of advocacy before the next UPR takes place in May, during which - based on the reports we submitted in October – we will be publishing our recommendations on the rights of migrants to be supported by UN member states.  

The activities described above are contributing to the build-up of our project which is taking shape and that we hope will materialise later this year. We are continuing to find ways to crowd-source in order to build this project.  

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Our commitment to provide routes to justice to migrants and asylum-seekers who experienced abuses and human rights violations in Libya has continued as strong as ever over the last few months. We were actively involved in advocacy and awareness-raising efforts, and also engaged consistently with our Libyan partners to keep pursuing justice for migrants in Libya through national regional and international channels.   


In October, we submitted a report as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a United Nations mechanism aiming at assessing the human rights situation within countries. Within this mechanism, civil society organisations are invited to provide their input and recommendations to improve the record of human rights in the countries under review 

Following up on LFJL’s participation in Italy’s UPR in May to highlight the Italian migration policies endangering the human rights of migrants in Libya, LFJL and its partners from Libyan civil society submitted a report as part of Libya’s upcoming UPR in May 2020.  This specific submission aimed at assessing the human rights situation in Libya and focused specifically on migration and the mistreatment of migrants by Libyan authorities and armed groups. In our submission, we noted how Libya, rather than honouring the commitments made to protect the rights of migrants and refugees, has instead focused on implementing cooperation agreements with Italy. These agreements, however, have worsened the situation and failed to guarantee the human rights of migrants and refugees being arbitrarily detained, tortured and exploited in Libya. Finally, we gave accounts of grave human rights violations by the Libyan Coast Guard at the expense of migrants at sea and in the transfer to detention centres 

In view of conducting casework with our partners and bringing cases before regional and international human rights jurisdictions, we trained 12 Libyan lawyers and members of Libyan civil society on strategic litigation. The workshop, held earlier this month in Tunis, aimed to train the participants on litigating human rights violations taking place in Libybefore human rights mechanisms and on thechallenges and opportunitiesof strategic litigation in reference to enforced disappearance and torture cases.This workshop was part of our effort to engage with and support Libyan civil society organisations to pursue justice internationally, including in relation to violations against migrants and asylum-seekers. 

We also continued to work on the enforced disappearances projectLFJL and two of our partners from Libyan civil society attended the 65th ordinary session of the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on 18-23 October 2019 in Banjul, The Gambia. The aim of the mission to the ACHPR was to ensure that the perspectives of Libyan civil society were represented at this forum and that human rights concerns in Libya are addressed at the regional level. We met with some key Commissioners to discuss the migration context in Libya and in particular the human rights situation of migrants and internally displaced persons.  


Additionally, one of LFJL’s partners who has been working on human rights and the situation of internally displaced persons from Tawergha, Libya since 2011, took part in a panel on enforced disappearances in Africa organised by REDRESS and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa. The panel, which took place as part of the main session of the ACHPR on 22 October, aimed to provide an understanding of the issue in the African continent and to identify solutions and measures to prevent this practice, including through the adoption of guidelines by the ACHPR. The intervention of LFJL’s partner, who has been subjected to enforced disappearances himself, provided an insight into the practice of enforced disappearances in Libya and the perspectives of victims as well as the challenges they face to obtain truth and justice. 


Finally, we raised awareness on the issue of migration through our communications channels. At the beginning of October, we released the final episode of Season 1 of our podcast Libya Matters. We launched Libya Matters in July with the aim of challenging the mainstream international coverage of Libya and highlighting under-reported parts of the Libyan story. In casual conversations intended to bring a candid insight, hosts and guest experts explore issues of justice, human rights, the rule of law and much more.  

Given the importance of the issue, we dedicated an episode to raising awareness on migration and detention in Libya. The episode, Outsourcing the Mediterranean, features Amnesty International’s researcher Matteo de Bellis. This episode delved into the criminalisation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea by European governments, as well as the inhumane arbitrary detention of migrants in Libya. We also challenged popular narratives regarding the migrant “crisis”, the relation between migration and terrorism, and more. 

This episode critically and empathetically discussed the increasingly aggressive steps aimed at limiting migrants’ access to Europewith the hope of highlighting the need for civil society organisations and human rights activists to keep watch on this subject. This episode and the rest of season 1 of Libya Matters can be found on iTunesSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, and all other major platforms. 


What’s next? 

Based on the UPR reports that we submitted as part of Libya’s UPR we will be conducting some advocacy with UN member states to support our recommendations to Libya in order to improve the rights of migrants. Jointly with a coalition of NGOs we will also continue to push for more accountability in Libya and the establishment of an accountability mechanism to monitor and address human rights violations and hold those responsible to account. 

We are also working on cases to be submitted to human rights mechanisms in the coming months. Keep checking our work here for more exciting updates! 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 updated 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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Organization Information

Lawyers for Justice in Libya

Location: London - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @libyanjustice
Project Leader:
Chloe Dennis
London, United Kingdom
$12,002 raised of $20,000 goal
204 donations
$7,998 to go
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