September 26, 2018
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has co-led a letter with The America Team for Displaced Eritreans to bring an urgent response to the needs of vulnerable individuals and families in Libya. This appeal was delivered to His Excellency António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations on Friday with copies to:
The Honorable Mike Pompeo, United States Secretary of State
The Honorable Nikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Mr. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Mr. Antonio Vitorino, Director General, International Organization for Migration
As Libya has descended ever further into vicious fighting among rival militias and other factions, thousands of innocent refugees, migrants and trafficking victims have come to be trapped in the cross-fire and the letter calls for both immediate and comprehensive responses for refugee protection in Libya.
Excerpt from letter: Some eight thousand Eritreans and other sub-Saharan African refugees, migrants and trafficking victims have recently found themselves caught in the crossfire among warring militias in Libya, as security has rapidly deteriorated in Tripoli and elsewhere. Their circumstances are dire. Many – men, women and children – are hidden in detention facilities and makeshift jails. Some have recently died in at least one detention warehouse for lack of food and basic sanitation. Others have escaped and are in hiding or living in the street in search of protection from traffickers and militias. There have been credible reports of rape. We have also received numerous reports that the individuals lack food, medical attention and basic physical security. They could starve, die of disease, be shot, or become enslaved by militias or traffickers. We are told that the situation is getting more desperate by the day.
Libya has long been dysfunctional in its ability to protect refugees, migrants, and trafficking victims. For example, for several years major news organizations have reported that sub-Saharan migrants and refugees have been sold in open markets as slaves in Libya, and that others have been held against their will under abominable conditions – often being tortured or killed – while ransom is demanded for their release. But the dysfunction appears now to have reached a new level. We cannot allow innocent people to become or remain tragic victims of this inhuman circumstance.
We are gratified that UNHCR has already given attention to the immediate crisis, as reported by the news media. But we urge that that body, together with the other addressees of this letter, refortify those efforts.
In light of the foregoing, we the undersigned:
• Call upon UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations, donor countries and the international community to ensure that all available resources be deployed to move these vulnerable individuals to safety – including by airlifting them to safe countries – and to otherwise administer aid and protection as soon as possible.
• Call upon the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration to monitor the overall situation more effectively, to promote comprehensive solutions for the thousands of refugees, migrants and trafficking victims warehoused in Libya, and to end their enslavement immediately.
The letter was joined by fifty-four additional refugee serving agencies in the United States, Israel, Egypt and Canada as well as Eritrean serving agencies from around the world.
Full copy of the letter and signatories can be found here.