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Libya: Migrants Situation Update

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Apr 22, 2011 (110422)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"So far, only about 2,800 out of a total of 500,000 people fleeing the violence in Libya have arrived in Europe. This is less than 0.6 percent of all cross-border movements. ... The movement out of Libya is unrelated to the arrivals of some 20,000 mainly Tunisians on Lampedusa, which is part of the 'normal' boat migration by mainly North African young men in search of work." - Hein de Haas

The Libyan crisis has served as a new occasion for antiimmigrant demagoguery in Europe (witness the recent FrenchItalian dispute over a train with Tunisian migrants trying to cross the border to France). But, notes migration specialist Hein de Haas in his blog, few migrants desperate to flee Libya are in fact not going to Europe but seeking to return to their home countries.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin has this short posting from, plus two recent updates from the International Organization for Migration (, which is the international agency trying to cope with helping migrants trying to escape the conflict in Libya. Although the IOM has recently been able to evacuate several thousand migrants from Misurata, and there is a regular flow across Libya's land borders, the agency lacks sufficient funds to pay for the ongoing reception of new migrants.

As a reminder that the fundamental issues facing migrants in Europe and elsewhere are structural rather than primarily linked to crises such as the conflict in Libya, this Bulletin also includes the statement from September, 2010 of the Global Migration Group, focused on the human rights of migrants in irregular situations.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today, available on the web at but not sent out by e-mail, contains excerpts from the 2009 Human Development Report on Human Mobility and Development. That report, which has received far less attention than it deserves, focuses on fundamental issues of development and migrants' rights, proposing approaches that contrast strongly with the anti-immigrant hysteria which is on the rise in many migrant-destination countries.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Libya, visit

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on migration issues, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Europe's tiny refugee burden: Putting the Libyan migration crisis into perspective

Anybody believing that the Libyan crisis would create a "biblical exodus" towards Europe or the fear-mongering by Frontex and European politicians that up to 1.5 million migrants may soon arrive on European shores, should take a look at the chart below. [available at]

And please have a look at this website - It is a beautiful collection of pictures showing the human face of the Libyan crisis and the faces of the many poor people who kept the wheels of the Libyan economy turning over the past years - Most want to go home. How dare European politicians insinuate that these people will massively "invade" Europe?

Just some basic facts:

  • So far, only about 2,800 out of a total of 500,000 people fleeing the violence in Libya have arrived in Europe. This is less than 0.6 percent of all cross-border movements.
  • Egypt and Tunisia bear the real refugee burden – if that term is appropriate in the first place: about 88 percent of all people fleeing Libya arrive on their land borders.
  • The overwhelming majority are migrant workers from Egypt, Tunisia, sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh and elsewhere who want to go home - shattering the myth that the millions of foreigners in Libya would all be "transit migrants" on their way to Europe.
  • The movement out of Libya is unrelated to the arrivals of some 20,000 mainly Tunisians on Lampedusa, which is part of the "normal" boat migration by mainly North African young men in search of work.
  • A combination of favourable weather, decreased police controls and high unemployment among young Tunisian men as a consequence of the decrease in tourist arrivals partly explain the new departures from the Tunisian coast. See also this article in the Tunisian newspaper Le Temps (
  • This illegal boat migration has existed since the EU countries introduced visas for North Africans in the early 1990s, which interrupted seasonal and circular migration flows of Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian workers. This forced them to migrate illegally and pushed them into permanent settlement. A clear example of how immigration restrictions can have counter-productive effects.
  • This cross-Mediterranean migration happens every year, particularly in springtime. Total numbers amount to several tens of thousands per year, or about 2 percent of the annual of 1.5 - 1.8 million non-Europeans migrating to EU countries.
  • [However, migration] routes continuously change in response to shifts in border controls in a kind of cat and mouse game. A drop in one place generally leads to an increase at other crossing points, and the other way around.

In sum: there is no indication that there is a major increase in migration from Africa to Europe in response to the popular uprisings in North Africa and the Libyan crisis, let alone that Europe would be invaded by hordes of desperate African migrants.

This was a myth from the start, and the evidence only proves this. It is only sad to see the media and politicians perpetuate this "myth of invasion".

IOM Response to the Libyan Crisis

External Situation Report | 19th April 2011

International Organization for Migration

[Text only. For pdfs of this and other reports, including maps and additional tables, visit or]


  • As of 18 April, 550,680 migrants have fled violence in Libya. This figure includes 244,714 Third Country Nationals (TCNs). Migrants fleeing Libya entered Tunisia, Egypt, Niger, Algeria, Chad, and Sudan. Some of them put their lives in great danger to reach the shores of Italy and Malta.
  • IOM and its partners have assisted 114,841 persons to return to their home country as of 18 April.
  • On 18 April, 5,390 people crossed the Libyan borders with Tunisia and Egypt.
  • As of 18 April, the total caseload in need of evacuation at the Libyan borders is estimated at 6,164 persons.
  • Thanks to recently confirmed donor support, IOM was able to rescue more than 2,000 people from Misrata. (Please see attached press briefing note - below)
  • Despite receiving funding for evacuations from Misrata, IOM has run out of funds to carry out its operations elsewhere in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Chad, and Niger, and continues to urgently seek further support to safely return migrants home.

Around 3,003 people crossed the border on 18 April until 23:59. This brings the cumulative total arrivals in Tunisia to 257,448 people.

As of 18 April, direct transportation assistance from Tunisia was provided to 88,195 persons by boat, charters and commercial flights since the beginning of the crisis, including to nationals from Egypt, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal and the Philippines.

On 18 April, IOM assisted the return of 179 Chadians and another 179 Malians. As of 18 April the caseload of migrants in need of evacuation assistance is 4,200 people.

Daily Figures – 18 April 2011
Arrivals: 3,003
IOM assisted returns: 358

Total Figures
Total Arrivals: 257,448
Total assisted returns: 88,195


On 18 April, 2,387 persons crossed the Egyptian border. This brings the cumulative total of arrivals to 219,880 people.

As of April 18, the current caseload is now 1,796. The mass evacuations have successfully decreased the total number of migrants in need of transportation assistance.

Since 26 February, IOM has evacuated 25,232 migrants stranded in Egypt. On 18 April, IOM assisted the return of 12 people.

The IOM medical unit in Salloum is effectively the only international agency providing health care in partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Health.

Daily Figures – 18 April 2011
Arrivals: 2,387
IOM assisted returns: 12

Total Figures
Total Arrivals: 219,880
Total assisted returns: 25,232


Total cumulative arrivals in Dirkou amount to 47,479 people, with 1,879 persons arriving on 17 April. From the beginning of the Libyan Crisis, IOM has aided 1,091 TCNs to return to their country of origin. On 17 April, IOM assisted the return of 47 TCNs.

168 people received NFIs, food and water on 17 April and another 66 people received medical assistance on 15 April.

Daily Figures – 17 April 2011
Arrivals: 1,879
IOM assisted returns: 47

Total Figures
Total Arrivals: 47,479
Total assisted returns: 1,091


As of 15 April 3 charter flights flights carrying 171 vulnerable persons have been organized from Faya to N'Djamena.

As IOM Rescue Operation for Migrants Stranded in Misrata Continue, Many Thousands More Migrants Need Urgent Help Elsewhere


Press Briefing
International Organization for Migration

Libya - A third IOM-chartered boat bringing more humanitarian aid into the besieged city of Misrata is due to arrive in the port later today with the aim of rescuing more stranded migrants.

The boat, the Ionian Spirit, left Benghazi on Tuesday night carrying 500 tons of food, medical supplies, hygiene kits and non-food items donated mainly by the Libyan private sector with some aid provided by Qatar and the U.A.E. Red Crescent.

A Libyan non-governmental organization Libaid has donated the hygiene kits, medical supplies, hospital wheelchairs and four generators for hospital use.

Also on board are a team of 13 doctors with differing specializations. Two of the doctors who will relieve colleagues working in the hospital in Misrata will also refer critical but stable cases to IOM for evacuation to Benghazi.

"The presence of a large group of doctors with different specializations means greater capacity and more flexibility to assist those critically wounded or sick on board for the return journey to Benghazi," said IOM operational leader Jeremy Haslam as the boat departed.

However, the main focus of this third IOM operation to rescue stranded migrants in Misrata is to bring as many migrants as possible to safety.

In particular, the Organization is hoping to target a large number of migrants from Niger. Of the estimated 5,000 migrants around the port area, more than 3,200 are believed to be Nigeriens.

"We don't know whether we will be able to reach them, however. If they are not close to the port, then it will be extremely hard to access them given the security conditions in the city," Haslam added.

In two previous missions funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (ECHO), IOM has rescued more than 2,100 people from Misrata, nearly 100 of them Libyans.

New funding of one million Euros from the German government and BP 1.5 million (US$2.4m) from Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) will allow IOM to continue its rescue operations from Misrata where about 5,000 migrants are still believed to be stranded, to the eastern port city of Benghazi.

However, a critical shortage of funds means that while the migrants are brought to relative safety in Benghazi, they will remain stranded there without additional means.

"Taking the migrants out of the line of fire is life-saving, but by not being able to take them out of Libya and safely home means their plight has simply been transplanted to another location," says IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, Mohammed Abdiker.

"This is true for all the migrants who we need to help inside Libya and for those who have managed to cross Libya's borders with its neighbours."

More than 5,000 migrants on the Egyptian, Tunisian and Nigerien borders with Libya are still in need of evacuation to their home countries.

Among the many identified groups of migrants needing urgent evacuation from inside Libya are a group of nearly 30,000 Chadians, including women and children, marooned in Gatroun. IOM is in discussions with the Libyan and Chadian authorities on accessing the group.

It comes as the number of Chadians crossing into Chad from Libya has dramatically increased with a growing number of the migrants stranded in northern towns such as Faya and Kaliyit. The migrants are all dehydrated, extremely tired and in need of food.

An IOM transit centre at Faya, where UNHCR has provided tents to accommodate arrivals, which has a capacity of 750 people is now overflowing.

"An airlift to Ndjamena is the only option. But again this is a costly operation," Abdiker states. "We are in a position where we have beefed up our operational presence at the Chadian border points to cope with the number of arrivals but we have no money to evacuate the migrants from these isolated desert areas to the Chadian capital."

Working with various Embassies, an IOM operation begun some weeks ago to evacuate stranded migrants in Tripoli by bus to the Tunisian border will be difficult to continue.

Only yesterday, 19 April, IOM evacuated a group of 100 Beninois migrants from the Libyan capital, including women and infants.

IOM appealed for about US$160 million dollars for its response to the Libyan crisis with much of the funding to provide evacuation assistance from both inside and outside Libya. The Organization has received to date US$65 million, all of it except the new funding spent on operations that have helped return more than 115,000 migrants return to their home countries and evacuate many thousands from inside Libya to Egypt and Tunisia.

For further information, please contact:

Jean Philippe Chauzy, IOM Geneva
Tel: +41 22 717 9361; +41 79 285 4366


Jemini Pandya, IOM Geneva
Tel: +41 22 717 9486; +41 79 217 3374


Jumbe Omari Jumbe
Tel: +41 22 717 9405; +41 79 812 7734


Statement of the Global Migration Group on the Human Rights of Migrants in Irregular Situation

Global Migration Group

[The Global Migration Group (GMG) is an inter-agency group bringing together 14 agencies (12 United Nations agencies, the World Bank, and the International Organization for Migration) to promote the application of relevant international instruments and norms relating to migration, and to encourage the adoption of more coherent, comprehensive and better coordinated approaches to the issue of international migration.]

Principals of the Global Migration Group, assembled in Geneva on 30 September 2010, have adopted the following statement:

The Global Migration Group (GMG) is deeply concerned about the human rights of international migrants in an irregular situation around the globe. Although the number of migrants without proper legal status in transit or host countries is unknown, they are estimated to be in the tens of millions worldwide.

Migrants in an irregular situation are more likely to face discrimination, exclusion, exploitation and abuse at all stages of the migration process. They often face prolonged detention or ill- treatment, and in some cases enslavement, rape or even murder. They are more likely to be targeted by xenophobes and racists, victimized by unscrupulous employers and sexual predators, and can easily fall prey to criminal traffickers and smugglers. Rendered vulnerable by their irregular status, these men, women and children are often afraid or unable to seek protection and relief from the authorities of countries of origin, transit or destination.

Children, especially those unaccompanied and separated, are particularly at risk. Furthermore, children can be banned from classrooms or denied their fundamental rights, even as their parents work and contribute to the economies of host countries and thus contribute to raising the standards of living and human development for those societies. Migrants in an irregular situation are often denied even the most basic labor protections, due process guarantees, personal security, and healthcare. Female migrants in these situations face greater risk of sexual exploitation, gender based violence, HIV transmission, multiple discriminations and specific challenges in access to employment, and health services, including reproductive healthcare. People who leave their own countries because their lives and liberty are at risk are often obliged to move in an irregular manner and find it increasingly difficult to seek and obtain refugee status.

Too often, States have addressed irregular migration solely through the lens of sovereignty, border security or law enforcement, sometimes driven by hostile domestic constituencies. Although States have legitimate interests in securing their borders and exercising immigration controls, such concerns cannot, and indeed, as a matter of international law do not, trump the obligations of the State to respect the internationally guaranteed rights of all persons, to protect those rights against abuses, and to fulfill the rights necessary for them to enjoy a life of dignity and security.

The fundamental rights of all persons, regardless of their migration status, include:

* The right to life, liberty and security of the person and to be free from arbitrary arrest or detention, and the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution;

* The right to be free from discrimination based on race, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, or other status;

* The right to be protected from abuse and exploitation, to be free from slavery, and from involuntary servitude, and to be free from torture and from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

* The right to a fair trial and to legal redress;

* The right to protection of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health, an adequate standard of living, social security, adequate housing, education, and just and favorable conditions of work; and

* Other human rights as guaranteed by the international human rights instruments1 to which the State is party and by customary international law.

Protecting these rights is not only a legal obligation; it is also a matter of public interest and intrinsically linked to human development.

The GMG calls upon States to review the situation of migrants in an irregular situation within their territories and to work towards ensuring that their laws and regulations conform with and promote the realization of the applicable international human rights standards [1] and guarantees at all stages of the migration process. The GMG recognizes the difficulties many States face and stands ready to continue to support them in their efforts to ensure the effective implementation of appropriate legislation, including through capacity development.

The GMG further calls on States, civil society, the private sector, the media and host communities to address the demand side of trafficking and exploitation, to work actively to combat xenophobia, racism and incitement to discrimination in national politics and in public discourse, to protect all migrants, as well as to actively promote tolerant societies in which every person can enjoy his or her human rights, regardless of migration status.

The GMG continues to work with States, civil society and the social partners to address the obstacles faced by all international migrants, including those in irregular situations, to enjoy effectively their human rights. Further, the GMG will continue to support efforts to address the root causes of irregular migration by, among other things, promoting social and economic development to reduce migration pressures and the expansion of channels for regular migration. In addition, the GMG will continue to support prevention, cooperation and protection measures in respect of trafficking and smuggling of human beings.

The irregular situation which international migrants may find themselves in should not deprive them either of their humanity or of their rights. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

[1] Including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ILO conventions on labour migration, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and others.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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