UN: Libya must protect hundreds of citizens stranded in the desert
UN: Libya must protect hundreds of citizens stranded in the desert

UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Person Cecilia Jimenes-Damary [official profile] is calling on [press release] the government of Libya to protect the hundreds of former residents of the town of Tawergha who are currently stranded in the desert.

According to the UN, approximately 40,000 Tawarghans were forcefully evacuated in 2011 due to their support for the country’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile] and their return has since been blocked by armed militia groups acting with the consent of the Libyan government. These militia groups continue to impede the Tawarghans’ return despite an agreement being reached by representatives of the Tawarghans and the Misratan militia group that would have allowed individuals to begin returning home on February 1.

Damary states that around 200 families are currently living in makeshift tents near Tawergha while others are living in the public halls of nearby towns. Among these individuals, two have died following strokes potentially caused by the extreme fluctuations in temperature in the desert. Damary argues that these people are being exposed to the elements without proper living conditions such as good sanitation, access to health facilities, medicine, and drinking water. Damary said

It is critical that the Libyan Government, as well as the UN and NGOs, act to ensure that no more lives are lost as a result of this situation and that the Tawerghan people are allowed to reach their homes in safety and dignity

In a statement [text] released earlier this month following a week-long official visit to Libya, Damary also voiced concerns regarding what awaits Tawarghans upon their return, stating:

The return of the Tawarghans to an area that experienced intense fighting furthermore exposes them to threats, including the danger of Explosive Remnants of War. Many of their homes have been damaged or destroyed, and infrastructure and livelihoods were completely disrupted, including schools, hospitals and other public buildings that were frequently used by parties to the conflict during the course of hostilities.

Damary is now asking the Libyan government to comply with her previous recommendation [press release] of developing a “comprehensive roadmap” that is in compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement [materials] outlining the roles and responsibilities of governments in ensuring the safety of internally displaced person.