• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

UNHCR signs agreement aimed at ensuring refugee protection in Libya

News Stories, 4 July 2008

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
High Commissioner António Guterres meeting last year with Khaled El Hamedi, chairman of Libya's International Organisation for Peace, Care and Relief (IOPCR). The IOPCR is one of the organizations that UNHCR signed the accord with.

TRIPOLI, Libya, July 4 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has recently signed an agreement with three organizations aimed at ensuring the protection needs of refugees and asylum seekers in Libya. This is in line with UNHCR's responsibility to advocate for better protection of refugees in the context of mixed asylum and migration flows.

"This is certainly a good step forward," said UNHCR's top protection official, Erika Feller, who in June completed signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the International Organization for Peace, Care and Relief (IOPCR), the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR).

"Although refugees and migrants often use the same routes and means of transport they do have different protection needs. The increasing cooperation between UNHCR and Libya, and this agreement, is an acknowledgement of this situation and sets out practical ways of working together," said Feller.

The agreement is part of UNHCR's work under its Ten-Point Plan of Action on Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration, which sets out a number of areas where the agency believes initiatives are called for and where it can contribute some expertise in this challenging area.

UNHCR and the other three organizations which signed the agreement will support the Libyan authorities in designing and implementing comprehensive and protection-sensitive asylum management strategies with full respect for international and regional refugee and human rights principles.

They will particularly collaborate on capacity-building, data management, studies/surveys, and voluntary repatriation with the aim of enhancing protection for persons of concern to UNHCR in Libya.

There are currently some 9,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Libya mainly Iraqis and Palestinians, and also Eritreans, Sudanese, Somalis, Liberians, Sierra Leoneans and Congolese from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In June, UNHCR said it was alarmed by credible reports that Egypt had forcibly returned Eritrean asylum seekers.

"We welcome the decision of the Libyan authorities not to deport Eritrean asylum seekers," said Radhouane Nouicer, chief of UNHCR's Middle East and North Africa bureau. "We are aware of the challenges in dealing with mixed flows of irregular immigrants and asylum seekers, and are appreciative of the Libyan government's efforts to address some of these issues in consultation with our office in Tripoli," he added.

Libya is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. In the absence of a national asylum system, registration, documentation activities and refugee status determination procedures are carried out by UNHCR Libya.




UNHCR country pages

UNHCR Supplementary Appeal

UNHCR Supplementary Budget: The Libya Situation, March 2011


Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

Capacity Building

Helping national authorities meet their obligations to the uprooted.

Livelihoods and Self-Reliance

We help refugees, refugee returnees and internally displaced people tap their potential and build a platform for a better future.

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined UNHCR chief António Guterres on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they met with boat people who have fled unrest in North Africa.

More than 40,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and descended on the small island since the beginning of the year.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Displacement Challenges for Libya

Libya endured severe upheaval in 2011 and the next government faces major challenges moving the country forward after four decades of Muammar Gaddafi's rigid rule. One task will be addressing and resolving the issue of tens of thousands of internally displaced people. Some are waiting for their homes to be repaired or rebuilt, but many more have been forced to desert their towns and villages because of their perceived support for Gaddafi and alleged crimes committed during the conflict. Meanwhile, growing numbers of people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, are coming to Libya from sub-Saharan Africa on well travelled mixed migration routes. Some are being detained as illegal immigrants, though many are people of concern. Others have risked the dangerous sea crossing to southern Europe.

Displacement Challenges for Libya

Crisis in Libya

UNHCR is working with the Tunisian and Egyptian authorities and aid groups to manage the dramatic influx of tens of thousands of people fleeing Libya. By the beginning of March, two weeks after the violence erupted in Libya, more than 140,000 people had fled to the neighbouring countries, while thousands more were waiting to cross. Most are Egyptian and Tunisian nationals, though small numbers of Libyans and other nationalities are managing to escape. UNHCR is particularly concerned about thousands of refugees and other foreigners trapped inside Libya, especially people from sub-Saharan Africa. The following photo essay gives a glimpse into what is happening at the borders.

Crisis in Libya

UNHCR Syrians KhomsPlay video

UNHCR Syrians Khoms

The end of a long, silent journey: Two Eritreans in Libya Play video

The end of a long, silent journey: Two Eritreans in Libya

Two Eritreans set out on a perilous journey to Europe, crossing Sudan and the Sahara arriving in Libya during its 2011 revolution. They arrive in Tripoli having avoided the risks of detention and despite contending with a crippling handicap: both David and his wife Amitu are deaf and mute.
Khaled Hosseini - No one chooses to be a refugeePlay video

Khaled Hosseini - No one chooses to be a refugee

UNHCR's 2012 World Refugee Day global social advocacy campaign, "Dilemmas", aims to help fight intolerance and xenophobia against refugees. UNHCR Goodwill Envoy Khaled Hosseini and a host of other celebrities echo the same strong message: No one chooses to be a refugee.