Struggles of migrants continue, increasing numbers and protection concerns
Despite the overall reduction of conflict-related incidents since adoption of the October 2020 ceasefire, 2021 has witnessed a noticeable increase in the number of migrants intercepted/rescued at sea and returned to Libya. While in 2020, close to 11,900 migrants were returned to Libya, in the first quarter of 2021, over 6,000 migrants were returned so far (over 1,900 in March alone), suggesting a doubling of figures year-on-year. Strikingly, in the seven day period between 28 March and 3 April, over 1,660 migrants were rescued/intercepted at sea and returned to Libya.
The figures constitute a striking increase in the disembarkation trend compared to 2020 and 2019 figures. The increase in numbers might be attributed to the improvement of the weather conditions, increased activity of smugglers or the constraints migrants in Libya face in accessing income generating activities due to COVID-19. Approaching the months of spring and summer that historically show the highest number of migrants attempting the Mediterranean crossing, it is expected that the number of disembarked migrants will increase drastically.
The economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to result in a 14 per cent global decline in the amount of remittance migrant workers will send home in 2021, which could also negatively affect migrants in Libya in line with the global average. Therefore, a concerted effort towards improving the situation of migrant workers in Libya is needed via regulation of labour market and strengthening of social protection mechanisms available to migrant workers.
The conditions in detention centers is of utmost concern. More than 4,000 men, women and children are detained in dire conditions with limited access to basic services and overcrowding. The highest number of detainees are in detention centres in the Mabani, Abu-Sleim and Triq Al-Sika areas of Tripoli. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, overcrowded conditions are alarming.
Eviction is an ever-growing concern that families face that strains the coping capacities to seek shelter across Libya. Monitoring the progress of the peace process and the stabilization process, companies and government institutions are reclaiming their properties for redevelopment, which puts the pressure on the host communities to evict due to the reinstated provision of public services in schools and health facilities used as collective shelters. In a recent instance, 535 displaced families from Tawergha residing in the Naval academy in Janzour, a makeshift IDP settlement, have been ordered to vacate the premises by the Ministry of Interior by 20 May 2021.
Displacement causes secondary protection concerns with a particular gender dimension. Exposure to violence and abuse, asset loss, mental health and psychological stress, disrupted community support networks and the resort to negative coping strategies to provide for families are highly likely in displacement settings and aggravated by eviction possibilities. Efforts are needed to ensure dignified relocation in case of eviction, including the provision of information on the process and access to basic services, while ensuring safety measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.