On the 10th of January, 2022, Refugees in Libya protested to demand that our humanity be recognised by the UNHCR and to be evacuated to safe countries. Instead, we were met with physical violence and detention. One year later, to mark the violent dissolution of our sit-in by militias, we returned to the UNHCR office in Tripoli to demand change. Instead we were met with a violence of indifference. see more on https://fb.watch/joacVKcqXg/
We marched to the UNHCR office to demand an improvement of our conditions and bring attention to the problems we are facing. Instead, we were met by the guards who did not allow us to stand by the main entrance to present our peaceful demands. Still, we raised our signs and voiced our calls for action. Yet, no member of the Commission came to meet us or hear our opinions.
We also met and began speaking with other refugees who were outside the UNHCR offices. Women and children, some of them with special needs, said to us, "Please help us get an appointment with the UNHCR. We now have 5 days sleeping here on the sidewalk in cold and rain, and some of us are being beaten and looted by some Libyans." Since their release from Ain Zara, they have been suffering from a lack of basic necessities and a complete lack of support from the UNHCR. Speaking further in recorded testimonies they urged, “Raise our voices to reach Geneva and the European community so that they realize what is happening to us as women in Libya”.
The “unfair UNHCR” is complicit in what these refugee sisters and mothers are experiencing through their inaction. One year on from Refugee in Libya’s initial protest, their continued indifference is violence. As a member of Refugees in Libya stated, “these problems need to be answered. Otherwise, there will never be “human rights” or belief in a so-called “human rights organization”.
Voices of Refugees in Libya: Our Honest Uncle
Our honest uncle is an older refugee here, in Tripoli. We asked him to tell his story of the UNFAIR treatment he’s experienced. Beginning with the events in Qarqarash (on the outskirts of Tripoli), he tells us how he was transferred to the prison, Ghutshal, and how he broke out of that prison. He also shares his experiences participating in Refugees in Libya’s sit-in in front of the UNHCR offices for 3 months and 10 days, and his imprisonment in Ain Zara after the sit-in was violently dispersed by militias.
“On October 1st, 2021, at 5 am, we were attacked in the city of Qarqarash. It was an attack from all directions, like the hit operation in the war. A very large force came from all colors of the spectrum present in Libya, militias, army, police, municipal guards...
From the beginning, their treatment was inhumane. They treated us as criminals. We were in our homes and renting houses from Libyan homeowners. If the government had asked us through their official channels for the procedures, we would have gone and did that, but they did not ask us for anything. We were arrested and beaten brutally. They took all our possessions, our phones and our money. And we were treated like criminals. The videos are available and documented, and the whole world is a witness to this. They did not leave us anything, even the foundations of the houses. They tied us in front of our young children and our wives on the roads, like prisoners of war.
We were then transferred to Ghout Shaal prison. More than 5,000 refugees were taken, and some of us were distributed to the prisons of other militias. From that Friday to the next, we were in prison for 8 days. We spent a lot of time in prison and then escaped.
Immediately, we went to the UNHCR CDC office. There was a hope without hope that there would be solutions from the UNHCR. But even in rumors their solutions are not as much as we were asking for. It was just “talk” from the UNHCR without any evidence. He said he will give us 500 Libyan dinars to each of us, but this was a lie from the UNHCR. They are also talking about doing nothing for refugees who escaped from prisons. Refugees who escaped, they lost all their possessions and do not have the necessities of daily life. I hope that there will be justice and accountability, and that existing team will be changed because it is not fit for humanitarian work.
Refugees were shot dead in front of our eyes. We are eyewitnesses. The issue is ours. We speak the truth and our rights. Even if we die, we escape death and find death in front of us. It is better for us to die speaking the truth and fighting for our rights.”
Voices of Refugees in Libya: Abdul
“The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Tripoli/Al-Sarraj is not
suitable for humanitarian aid. They do not have humanity, if there is any humanity”.
Abdul, whose full name will not be disclosed for safety purposes, tells us of his experiences working with the UNHCR offices in Tripoli and the racism that black refugees especially endure while claiming their rights in the asylum process.
“I was beaten by one of the diplomatic security personnel while inside the UNHCR building. I had told him that I was inside the office of the UNHCR Libya because I have a rights as an asylum seeker. I told him that I was talking to an employee, as that this is one of my rights as a refugee registered with the UNHCR office, and that he is entering into an affair that is not his business. On the basis of this, we went to file a complaint, and all the employees refused to accept our complaint.
The racism is everywhere. But they are racist to some refugees and not racist to others. Including Syrians, they are the ones who can claim all their rights as refugees. If one of the Syrian refugees comes to the UNHCR building, they let him enter like an employee. This happened today, January 12th, and we have eye witnesses. But for black people, the whole world puts a black dot in front of us.
I was there from the morning until now. I had an important issue that I wanted to inquire as a refugee. So, I was standing but there was no one to hear me until in the end, when they told me to go and come back on Sunday.
Within one year, I was also imprisoned in four prisons: Ghout Shaal Prison, Ain Zara Prison, Bir Al-Ghanam Prison, and Warshafana Prison. I got released from warshafana prison on September 8th.
Libya is not safe. Sometimes taxi owners threaten us and take our phones and some of our money. Even the militias on the roads threaten us. Even some Libyan citizens. We respect ourselves but no one respects us in Libya.