UNHCR has published its position paper on returns to Libya, urging all countries to allow civilians fleeing Libya access to their territories and to refrain from forcibly returning people to Libya until the security and human rights situation has improved considerably.

According to UNHCR, in most cases it would not be possible for asylum seekers from Libya to find adequate protection in an alternative area of Libya that is practically, safely and legally accessible.

Concerning third-country nationals, and in particular refugees and asylum seekers, UNHCR warns that these people are at a heightened risk of abuse in the current situation of insecurity. As a consequence, increasing numbers of persons are trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya. Syrians and Eritreans made up 46 per cent of persons who arrived in Italy by boat in 2014.

UNHCR further notes that there is widespread and systematic detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers in conditions which are reported to have further deteriorated as a result of the fighting and breakdown in public services and scarcity of food, medicine and other basic items.

Moreover, the level of insecurity is particularly high in Benghazi where persistent fighting since May 2014 has left parts of the city inaccessible and entire neighbourhoods devastated by shelling, including 33 hospitals.

UNHCR estimates that more than 393,420 people have become internally displaced in Libya since violence escalated in May. “They are scattered across 35 towns and cities and are in dire need of shelter, health care, food, water and other basic commodities,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 21November 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.