‘We are now exposed to kidnappings, militia attacks and extortion,’ protester says after UNHCR closes community day centre in Tripoli
REFUGEES stranded in Libya’s capital city have launched a crowdfund to raise money for medicines, food and shelter, and to help them cover the costs of their continued protests against their treatment.
A group of around 1,600 people have been holding daily demonstrations outside the UN refugee agency’s (UNHCR) community day care (CDC) centre in Tripoli for the past three months.
The protesters began gathering there in October, calling on the UNHCR to evacuate them from Libya, soon after the police began brutally rounding up migrants and refugees in the capital and detaining them in the country’s condemned detention centres.
Tensions rose between the UNHCR and the refugees. And last month the police and protesters classed outside the centre. The UNHCR has since closed it down.
“We are raising funds to help fight our troubling situation,” said Yambio David Oliver, a South Sudanese activist and spokesperson for Refugees In Libya, as the group is known.
“We need medicines and food. We need to buy banners and paint. We need to pay rent and find shelter, and many other things,” Mr Yambio told The Civil Fleet today.
In order for the refugees to keep the world updated on the situation in Libya, Mr Yambio said, they also need money for “[mobile phone] data, technical support and other electronic stuff.”
Things have only got worse outside the UNHCR centre since Mr Yambio last spoke with The Civil Fleet in December 2021.
“A lot has happened,” he said. “Some of our activists have been kidnapped by different security forces, different militias,” he says.
“A few days ago, the UNHCR started to dismantle its community day centre, where we have been camping, and relocating its assets to different locations, thus increasing our plight.
“We are now exposed to kidnappings, militia attacks and extortion. We are even likely to be forcibly evicted from the neighbourhood we are now in.
“The UNHCR collected a list of the protesters on December 22 last year, and promised to provide us with cash assistance, hygiene kits, food, plastic sheets and medical interventions. But up to now, none of this has been done.
“Our plight continues to rise to an unbearable level of loneliness and anguish, as we try to contemplate our futures.
“The international community remains silent as our calls for evacuation to safety grows.”
UPDATE: January 7, 2022
UNHCR senior external relations officer Caroline Gluck told The Civil Fleet: “We remain extremely concerned about the situation facing those camped outside our buildings. Their situation is very precarious; many were affected by the police operations, demolition of their homes and detention in very difficult conditions.
“Since the October events, we have been providing emergency assistance, including cash for shelter and basic needs, food parcels to last one month, hygiene kits and renewed or replaced lost UNHCR documentation for thousands of people in different locations in Tripoli, and also provided health assistance through our medical partner.
“Following one recent meeting, UNHCR received a list on December 22 of more than 1,300 cases of people outside the CDC. Our registration teams have now been able to check the lists. Not everyone was registered with UNHCR, and 66 cases were listed twice.
“Many on the list had already received initial assistance from us, but we are beginning a new round of assistance next week, prioritising those who are asylum seekers who are homeless or registered their addresses as outside the CDC.
“Others who are not registered with us will be scheduled for appointments.
“The decision to close the CDC at the end of 2021 was a very difficult one, as it was a ‘one stop shop’ providing a range of assistance with partners to around 150 persons a day in a single location. It was however necessary; after two months of blockade, alternatives solutions were urgently needed to ensure we could continue helping those seeking our support and assistance.”
In response to the clash between police officers and protesters outside the UNHCR centre in December, the Ms Gluck said: “We deplore any forms of violence and have been constantly calling for calm and restraint. UNHCR respects the right to peaceful protest, but has been urging protestors to allow vulnerable individuals needing assistance to freely access our premises for help, unhindered.”
The UNHCR’s full response to this article can be read here: tinyurl.com/2fr9pz3b.
You can donate to Refugees in Libya’s crowdfund here: gofundme.com/f/solidarityrefugeesinlibya
Meanwhile, the Banksy-funded rescue ship Louise Michel announced today that her crew was finally allowed to disembark the 31 people it rescued in the central Mediterranean earlier this week at a port on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Elsewhere in Fortress Europe today, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced that it was withdrawing its emergency response team from the Poland-Belarus border after being repeatedly denied access to treat migrants and refugees.
“Since October, MSF has repeatedly requested access to the restricted area and the border guard posts in Poland, but without success,” MSF emergency coordinator for Poland and Lithuania Frauke Ossig said.
“We know that there are still people crossing the border and hiding in the forest, in need of support, but while we are committed to assisting people on the move wherever they may be, we have not been able to reach them in Poland.
“The current situation is unacceptable and inhumane. People have the right to seek safety and asylum and should not be illegitimately pushed back to Belarus. This is putting lives at risk.”
Top image shows the stranded refugees during an assembly yesterday [Pic: Yambio David Oliver]