Roundtable on Migration Issues in Libya
A workshop on migration issues in Libya took place on January 28th, 2016 in Tunis. It gathered 12 Mayors, Councilors and administrators from 9 Libyan municipalities, as well as representatives and observers from ACTED, GIZ, REACH, Impact Initiatives, the European Commission, the French and German embassies to Libya and the Libyan Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS). The purpose of this workshop was to obtain an insight on the challenges Libyan municipalities have been experiencing as a consequence of the flow of migrants crossing the Libyan borders.
Participants shared how undocumented immigration affected their municipality, what challenges they are facing, how they have attempted to resolve these challenges and lessons learned, so far.
Three types of migrants were identified: migrants who come to Libya to work and settle down, those who transit through Libya on their way to Europe and temporarily seek employment to pay for their journey, and finally, people who cross the border to join crime organizations.
This initial conversation highlighted concerns that undocumented and uncontrolled migration is negatively affecting local communities in terms of health, food-security and criminal activity. Frequent cases of migrants infected with transmissible diseases (such as tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis, etc.) have been reported. This increases the risk of disease outbreaks as access to healthcare has become difficult, and is even impossible in some regions. Southern towns, in particular, have struggled for over a year to secure sufficient quality and quantity of food supplies and as a result, black markets have emerged in the region. Several participants reported that the increased influx of migrants correlates with a raise of criminal activities, as migrants are often targeted and forced into criminal organizations and militias for exploitation.
Concerns were raised about the deterioration of the living conditions and human rights of migrants, and the abuse of women and children. Accommodation centers provided by some municipalities gather up to 80 people in the same room due to a lack of resources and the high influx of migrants. These over-crowded centers increase the risk of disease outbreaks and are fostering prostitution, theft and criminal behavior. At the same time, numerous activities of Municipalities and local communities were presented which aimed at improving the treatment of migrants by registering them and providing required food, basic accommodation and healthcare despite very limited resources.
Some municipalities highlighted that the presence of migrants is vital to the local and national economy as they represent an essential part of the blue collar workforce. Currently, this is crucial since there is a huge shortage of skilled workers and service providers. Therefore, there is a need to establish a legal framework for migrants who want to work and stay in Libya. Ensuring the integration of such migrants into society has not only been raised as an option but is considered a necessity for the long-term local and national economic development. However, the absence of a central government limits the power of the municipalities and the scope of their actions since municipalities in border areas cannot control the borders or provide border security, but can only provide limited control within their vicinity; municipalities have limited funding to pay the salaries or incentives of public servants, required security forces or volunteer workers needed to register, care or train migrants; and municipalities have no mandate to establish and implement a nationwide registration and data management system.