Migration in Libya: transit zone or final destination?

Briefing papers
April 2016

Since the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, North Africa and in particular Libya has become a point of departure for people attempting to make the perilous sea journey to Europe.

Dramatic images of people in unseaworthy boats continue to capture the media’s attention, but these images obscure the long road – both in terms of distance and time – that many refugees and migrants endure before reaching Libya’s shores, let alone Europe.

What challenges do these migrants face during their journey, what support do they receive along their journey and how can international organisations better protect and support migrants?

Key messages:

  • Not all migrants who reach Europe via Libya intend to make this journey when they leave their countries of origin, but find themselves continuing their journey due to instability, peer behavior (realising this is what a lot of other migrants are doing) or due to poor conditions in the country.
  • Already fragile refugee/migrant protection has grown even more unpredictable since 2011, exposing migrants to increased abuse and exploitation and providing them with little means to seek protection from the authorities.
  • Most humanitarian organisations have withdrawn their international staff from Libya and are working through national staff or local partners. This lack of access raises a number of challenges: context analysis is partial, providing accurate figures on the number of people affected is difficult and engagement with the authorities and militias is not uniform.
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