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Refugees of the Libyan Civil War are the people, predominantly Libyans, who fled or were expelled from their homes during the Libyan Civil War, from within the borders of Libya to the neighbouring states of Tunisia, Egypt and Chad, as well as to European countries across the Mediterranean. The majority of Libyan refugees are Arabs and Berbers, though many of the other ethnicities temporarily living in Libya originated from sub-Saharan Africa.[1] These groups were also among the first refugee waves to exit the country. The total number of Libyan refugees were estimated at around one million as of June 2011 and most returned after the civil war ended. As of January 2013, there are 5,252 refugees originating from Libya alongside 59,425 internally displaced persons.[2] According to a Le Monde article dated May 13, 2014,[3] there are between 600,000 and 1,000,000 Libyan refugees in Tunisia, many of which are political opponents of the present forces in power in Libya, and many of which are supporters of the Jamahiriya of Muammar Gaddafi. This represents between 10 and 15% of the population of Libya prior to the NATO intervention.

According to journalist Barbara Slavin, reporting for Al Monitor on August 5, 2014, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki stated that two million Libyans, or one third of the pre NATO intervention population of Libya, have taken refuge in Tunisia.[4]


Fleeing the violence of Tripoli by road, as many as 4,000 refugees were crossing the Libya–Tunisia border daily during the first days of the civil war. Among those escaping the violence were native Libyans as well as foreign nationals including Egyptians, Tunisians and Turks.[5]

By 1 March, officials from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had confirmed allegations of discrimination against sub-Saharan Africans who were held in dangerous conditions in the no-man's-land between Tunisia and Libya.[6] On 10 May 2011, The Week posted an article claiming that roughly 746,000 people have fled Libya since the war began.[7]

On 1 October 2011, Red Cross official Abdelhamid al-Mendi said that more than 50,000 Libyans had fled their homes in Benghazi since the war began in February.[8]

A provisional refugee camp was set up at Ras Ajdir on the Libyan-Tunisian border and had a capacity for 10,000, but was overflowing with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 refugees. By 3 March 2011, the situation there was described as a logistical nightmare, with the World Health Organization warning of the risk of epidemics.[9]

To continue responding to the needs of people staying at the Ras Ajdir crossing point in Tunisia, the WFP and Secours Islamique-France upgraded a kitchen that would provide breakfast for families. Separately, the ICRC advised it was handing over its operations at the Choucha Camp to the Tunisian Red Crescent.[10] Since 24 March 2011, the WFP supplied over 42,500 cooked meals for TCNs at the Sallum border. A total of 1,650 cartons of fortified date bars (equivalent of 13.2 metric tons) had also been provided to supplement these meals.[11]

Over 500 mostly Berber Libyans fled their homes in Libya's Nafusa Mountains and took shelter in the Dehiba area of southeastern Tunisia between 5 and 12 April.[12]

The Sunday Telegraph reported on 11 September that almost the entire population of Tawergha, a town of about 10,000 people, had been forced to flee their homes by anti-Gaddafi fighters after their takeover of the settlement. The report suggested that Tawergha, which was dominated by black Libyans, may have been the subject of an ethnic cleansing provoked by a combination of racism and bitterness on the part of Misratan fighters over the Tawergha's support for Gaddafi during the siege of Misrata.[13]

Following the 2011 revolution in Tunisia and the civil war in Libya, the Italian island of Lampedusa saw a boom in illegal immigration from those countries.[14] In February, Italian Foreign Minister Frattini expressed his concerns that the amount of Libyan refugees trying to reach Italy might reach between 200,000 and 300,000 people.[15] More than 45,000 boat people arrived on Lampedusa in the first five months of 2011.[16]

Current situation

As of January 2013, there are 5,252 refugees originating from Libya alongside 59,425 internally displaced persons.[2] However the Le Monde article of May 14, 2014 states "Estimates of their numbers vary between 600,000 and one million by the Tunisian Ministry of Interior. If we add those, many also settled in Egypt, they would be nearly two million Libyans today outside the borders of a total population estimated at just over six million inhabitants." [3]

See also


  1. Squires, Nick (23 February 2011). "Libya: Italy fears 300,000 refugees". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "2013 UNHCR country operations profile - Libya". UNCHR. 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mandraud, Isabelle (13 May 2014). "Kadhafi est toujours là pour les Libyens de Tunis". Le Monde. Tunis. 
  4. Slavin, Barbara (5 August 2014). "Tunisia's president asks US for help". Al Monitor. Washington D.C.. 
  5. "Live Update: Thousands Flee Across Libya–Tunisia Border". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 24 February 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  6. Saunders, Doug (1 March 2011). "At a Tense Border Crossing, a Systematic Effort To Keep Black Africans Out". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  7. "Libya's 'devastating' refugee crisis: By the numbers". The Week. Libya. 10 May 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2012. 
  8. "Snipers halt NTC’s advance in Sirte; rebels deny capture of Qaddafi’s spokesman". Al Arabiya News. Sirte. 1 October 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  9. Sayar, Scott; Cowell, Alan (3 March 2011). "Libyan Refugee Crisis Called a 'Logistical Nightmare". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  10. "Libya: More Aid To Reach Misrata and Other Areas". International Committee of the Red Cross. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  11. "OCHA on Libya's Refugees Covering the Period of 10 to 12 April" (PDF). ReliefWeb. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  12. "Hundreds of Libyan Berbers Flee Western Mountains and Head to Tunisia". UNCHR. 12 April 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  13. Gilligan, Andrew (11 September 2011). "Gaddafi's ghost town after the loyalists retreat". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  14. Reid, Sue (4 April 2011). "Gaddafi's Diaspora and the Libyans Overwhelming Lampedusa". Daily Mail. London. 
  15. Squires, Nick (23 February 2011). "Libya: Italy Fears 300,000 Refugees". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  16. "Exodus". Newsweek. 12 June 2011. 

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