TRIPOLI, JUNE 3 – Mixed migratory movements to Libya and from Libya to Europe appear to have significantly increased in 2016. According to the UNHCR, while it is difficult to predict the evolution of migration flows, considerations that factor into the decision of refugees and migrants to make their way to Libya irregularly and stay in the country or leave for Europe can be categorized.
Looking at these indicators, it seems likely that Libya will remain the main transit hub for refugees and migrants to reach Europe from Africa in the coming years. In October 2016, UNHCR commissioned IMPACT Initiatives and Altai Consulting to conduct research on mixed migration patterns in Libya, with a particular focus on the south of the country and on communities of concern to UNHCR.
The objectives were twofold: 1) to track the evolution of mixed migration trends and routes to and within Libya; 2) to map out refugee and migrant concentrations in southern Libya, and to determine their vulnerabilities and protection needs.
This report’s findings are based on qualitative data collected between October and December 2016 in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Italy, Niger, Chad and Italy. In Libya, the research team conducted 72 interviews with key informants1 and 140 with refugees and migrants in eight hotspots in the south of the country and in the capital Tripoli. Another 74 interviews were conducted with key informants, refugees and migrants in Algeria, Niger, Chad and Italy.
According to the report, three main routes bring refugees and migrants to Europe: the Western Mediterranean Route (usually via Morocco to Spain), the Central Mediterranean Route (usually via Libya to Italy) and the Eastern Mediterranean Route (usually via Turkey to Greece). The Central Mediterranean Route is currently the most active and accounts for the largest number of people crossing by sea to Europe Libya is by far the preferred jumping off point for refugees and migrants from Africa hoping to reach Europe; yet it is particularly unsafe. In recent years, movements by sea from Libya to Europe have increased and the indications are that it is likely to stay this way. In addition to Libya’s strategic location, conflicts and instability in the country have hindered border control and created an environment where smuggling networks can flourish.
The report found out that most refugees and migrants arrive irregularly in Libya through Sudan (for those from East Africa), Niger (for those from West and Central Africa), or, to a lesser extent, Algeria (for those from West Africa). Routes through Sudan sometimes cross into Chad and routes through Niger in some cases pass through Algeria.
The total number of refugees and migrants in Libya (whether in transit or settled in the country) does not appear to have decreased in recent years. Ongoing conflict since 2014 might have pushed numerous refugees and migrants settled in Libya to leave, but increasing numbers also seem to be arriving. The profiles and nationalities of arrivals in Libya have evolved in the past few years. There seems to be a decrease from East Africa but an increase from West Africa. Foreign nationals coming to Libya are predominantly young, single men with a low level of education. A majority reports moving to or migrating through Libya for economic reasons. However, profiles vary. (@OnuItalia)