| May 20, 2020
#RoutesToJustice: Escalating violence and COVID-19 affect migrants and refugees in Libya
#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 situation. Recent 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 of Understanding 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 Libya. The 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.
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!