Region/Country: Africa and Middle East/Libya

IOM Libya Brief

The instability and violence negatively affecting Libya since October 2014 has resulted in massive internal displacement. IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) identified and located 348,372 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Libya. Host communities have absorbed the bulk of the internally displaced, however, as the situation becomes protracted, their resources and basic services have become scarce and overstretched. Potential for return is minimal in safe areas because the overall security situation has not allowed for international assessment and assistance. For most of the internally displaced communities — including people displaced since the onset of the crisis in 2011 — there is no immediate prospect for return given the prevailing inter-community tensions.

IOM DTM, as of Round 5, 2016, also identified and located 276,957 migrants in Libya, out of the around 700,000 to 1 million migrants expected to be within the country. Despite the current situation consisting of insecurity, a lack of rule of law and the loss of financial stability, Libya is still an important transit and destination country for migrants who arrive searching for employment or trying to reach Europe. In certain instances, migrants remain stranded in Libya and are caught by the authorities and imprisoned, or they become easy targets for the smuggling networks which promise safe travel to desperate people willing to embark on a dangerous trip by sea to Europe, or, are exploited and face human rights abuses within Libya.

Based on estimates provided by embassies, the total population of migrants in Libya is about 700,000 – 1 million people, mainly coming from Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Syria, and Mali. Migrants presently experience extreme insecurity in Libya, including arbitrary arrest by non-State actors, detention for indefinite periods of time, bonded labor, harassment and general exploitation. Given these circumstances, many migrants who had originally intended to stay and work in Libya eventually choose to take the journey across the Mediterranean Sea, perceiving this option as a safer living environment than remaining in Libya.

This year there were 278,327 migrants that arrived to Europe by sea, as of 31 August 2016. During the same reporting period there were 3,168 people recorded dead or missing. Of them, 106,461 migrants arrived to Italy, as of 28 August, and 2,726 deaths were recorded along the Central Mediterranean Route, compared to last year’s figures, when 116,147 migrants arrived to Italy between 1 January and 31 August 2015. For further information, please visit the Missing Migrants Project.

The constant tragedies in the Mediterranean, coupled with the deteriorating situation of the local population, make it necessary to address the instability in Libya through various interventions. IOM commenced activities in Libya in 2006, and continues to maintain a strong presence in the country since the establishment of the mission in Tripoli. Despite the present evacuation of all international IOM staff from Libya to Tunisia, IOM Libya remains fully operational and continues to provide humanitarian repatriation assistance to migrants, particularly to the most vulnerable, such as victims of trafficking (VoTs) and other forms of abuse, women and single mothers, as well as to families, to return home to their country of origin in a safe and dignified manner.

Since the eruption of armed confrontations in and around Tripoli in August, 2014, IOM has facilitated the safe return of 3,045 migrants from 27 different countries, the majority of whom moved directly from Tripoli. In addition, and in response to the humanitarian crisis affecting migrant and IDP communities all over Libya, IOM has distributed non-food items, including clothes, shoes, and other basic necessities, as well as hygiene kits to IDP families and migrants.

IOM has also provided immediate humanitarian assistance to several hundred migrants rescued at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard through the provision of specialized health care including psychosocial support, clothing, hygiene articles and other basic necessities. These services have been provided by local partners on the ground, who have been thoroughly trained to assess migrants’ needs through the identification of potential vulnerable groups, such as victims of trafficking, unaccompanied minors, and migrants in need of mental health services. Referrals to specialized professional institutions or to pertinent international organizations for further assistance are also provided.

IOM recognizes the need to provide tailored assistance to those individuals falling into the following vulnerable categories: (a) Migrants, (b) IDPs, and (c) Host Communities. As much as immediate and life-saving direct assistance to migrants on their precarious journeys is necessary, a comprehensive response needs to be developed that addresses the lack of rule of law, the proliferation of smuggling, trafficking in persons and human rights abuses against migrants, as well as the continuous displacement of persons and the burden this places on the local communities.

IOM has developed a comprehensive approach designed to strengthen the capacity of relevant authorities to address these complex migration flows. In order to implement this programming, IOM is building on its current work with relevant national and local authorities, national nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)/ civil society organizations (CSOs), and local communities and leaders.

Community Stabilization

IOM Libya is currently implementing a community stabilization program in Sabha and Al Qatrun, in southern Libya. The program, funded by the EU and the German Cooperation, aims at promoting peace and stability for IDPs, migrants and local host communities in Libya, and to build local capacities and promote peace initiatives with local authorities, NGOs and CSOs through training activities and support inter and intra community dialogue.

A variety of projects are planned to be implemented under the community stabilization program, in the following primary sectors:

  1. Infrastructure, agriculture and socio-cultural
  2. Restoration of essential services
  3. Livelihood support and vocational training
  4. Community outreach, social cohesion and local governance
  5. Psychosocial support

The community stabilization program expects to reach beneficiaries from diverse backgrounds and a wide range of geographic areas working in close collaboration with the municipalities of Sabha and Al Qatrun.  IOM uses a community driven and participatory approach to encourage peace building amongst all of the stakeholders as a means to enhance program outcomes.  Under the auspices of the community stabilization program, individual projects are designed to promote reconciliation, coordination, and compromise with the overarching goal to mitigate conflict in these historically marginalized cities. IOM has also led community driven transition and recovery activities as a means to stabilize areas stricken by war and conflict and natural disasters in a host of countries worldwide.  This experience in transition and recovery programming has led to community stabilization activities becoming one of IOM’s foremost areas of expertise, and currently promoting the need to link relief, recovery and development to ensure smooth and timely transition of activities as emergency situations evolve.  IOM’s flexible approach and ability to implement activities efficiently has been a key asset in situations where quick delivery and proper timing are essential in the promotion and realization of stabilization in fragile environments.

DTM Libya

DTM Libya was established following several displacement waves since 2011 with the purpose of providing accurate and timely information on the locations and movements of IDPs, returnees and migrants. The data and results produced by DTM is used to coordinate targeted and evidence-based humanitarian assistance and advocacy.

DTM is composed of three components:

  1. Mobility Tracking: Delivers Libya’s baseline figure on the number of displaced persons, returnees and migrants. Provides regular updates on demographic data, and multi-sectorial needs conditions of the locations where beneficiaries reside. 
  2. Flow Monitoring: Tracks the movement of migrants in and out of Libya at key entry, transit and departure points on a daily basis. Delivers detailed information about the demographics, nationalities, intentions and routes of migrants.
  3. Maritime Incidents Database: Captures daily information on all maritime incidents in Libyan waters, delivering datasets and narrative bulletins that tie into regional programs relating to the migration flow towards Europe.

DTM Libya: Round 5

DTM Libya has released its Round 5 Mobility Tracking Report, covering the reporting periods of July and August. Based on an assessment of 100 baladiyas and 533 muhallas in Libya, the report has identified and located 348,372 IDPs, 310,265 returnees, and 276,957 migrants in the country. This presents the latest update to the baseline DTM established in previous rounds of reporting.

Findings show that 86% of all those currently displaced in Libya have fled their homes between July 2014 and today. The most notable changes observed since the previous round include an increase in the number of returnees to Benghazi following the reduction of conflict in many districts, as well as Derna, Az Zawiyah, Gwalesh, Sabha, As Sidr and Kikla and a decrease in the number of IDPs identified in Benghazi especially, as well as Tobruk, Tripoli, Az Zawiyah and Derna.

Main areas where IDPs are residing are Benghazi, Bani Waled, Ajdabiya, Abu Salim and Al Bayda and most frequently cited areas of origin for the majority of IDPs across Libya are Tawergha, Sirte and Benghazi.

While 84 percent of IDPs are residing in private accommodation, either renting or being hosted with others, the remaining 16 percent are currently in public settings, most heavily concentrated in schools, informal settings (tents caravans and makeshift shelters) and unfinished buildings.

For the full dataset, summary tables, interactive dashboard, maps, and Round 5 analytical report, visit

Humanitarian Repatriation and Reintegration Assistance

In 2016, IOM has supported 1,589 migrants to voluntarily return to their countries of origin,  in total IOM is planning to support the repatriation of 2,400 migrants with priority given to those most vulnerable.

Twenty percent of this caseload will also be provided with reintegration assistance. This repatriation program includes individual counselling and vulnerability screening, immediate direct assistance, assistance to obtain travel documents and other consular services, pre-departure health checks, coordination with countries of origin for specific assistance to returnees and victims of trafficking and arrival assistance and reintegration assistance.

Return Program Components

  1. Pre-departure: The first step of each return project starts with establishing contact with embassies, community leaders and detention centres to get in touch with migrants interested in IOM return support. IOM offers    screening interviews, fit to travel medical checks and travel documents (through embassies). IOM also coordinates with the Libyan authority in charge of the exit visas and facilitates the safe and dignified   return of stranded migrants via commercial flight or charter flight in case of a bigger caseload.
  2. Departure Assistance: On the day of departure, returnees are assisted at the airport by IOM staff that provide them with IOM plastic bags, for easy recognition by the IOM airport assistants. Every migrant receives a non-food item kit and medical/operational travel escorts will be provided when necessary (health cases, unaccompanied   migrants etc.).
  3. Arrival Assistance: The IOM airport assistant in the countries of origin receives the migrant and instructs the returnee on the most suitable time/procedure to contact the reintegration focal point to finalize the reintegration procedures.
  4. Monitoring Phase: Each returnee, entitled for reintegration assistance, is monitored as follows: 1. After one month from inception of reintegration via phone; 2. After four months from inception of reintegration: all returnees are also monitored on-site.

Distribution of non-food items and hygiene kits

IOM Libya’s regular provision of non-food items (including blankets, mattresses and pillows) and hygiene kits (including soap, tooth brush and tooth paste) for internally displaced people, as well as to migrants at detention centres or other holding facilities where it has been granted access, including those in Surman, Az Zawiyah, Abu Sleem and Al Khums. Distribution of non-food items and hygiene kits is also complemented by emergency ration of food, basic medical equipment and supplies, provision of triage, critical health care, psychosocial counselling, and referral services. IOM Libya also provides direct assistance to migrants at disembarkation points upon rescue at sea operations by the Libyan Coast Guard.

The aim is to meet the urgent needs of vulnerable migrants and internally displaced people. Beneficiaries are targeted based on the outcomes of pre-distribution assessment that is conducted by IOM local partners from local NGOs and CSOs who were trained by IOM experts on conducting the humanitarian needs assessment, identifying the vulnerable groups, emergency response in addition to other capacity building topics that are required for the humanitarian actions.

Capacity building

IOM focuses on the capacity building of governmental and non-governmental entities from local NGOs and civil society organizations through a wide range of trainings and programs to scale up their capacities to be able to respond to the increasing humanitarian needs in the country.

IOM Libya trains local partners in a variety of topics including healthcare, human trafficking and human rights. IOM is targeting government authorities and local NGOs that are involved in migration issues in Libya, such as the Libyan Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration, the Libyan Coast Guard, the Ministry of Health, which have all received training on topics mentioned above in addition to their participation in workshop trainings on development of Standard Operation Procedures on rescue at sea operations and creation a mechanism of coordination among all agencies involved in Search and Rescue at sea operations outside the Libyan shores. 

Health and Psychosocial support

Together with local Libyan partners IOM Libya established medical teams in different areas all over the country to cover a significant number of migrants in detention centres. Medical teams offer medical consultations, treatment and sometime referral to the clinic in the area for the cases that need to be treated in specialized health facilities, the cases could include burns, scabies malnutrition etc.

In addition, some critical medical cases have been referred to IOM, which have been able to receive the necessary operations.  

IOM is also carrying out small interventions to improve living conditions in the centres, including disinfection and fumigation to improve health and sanitation conditions and prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
Activities for health promotion and disease prevention, including STIs, HIV/AIDS, and TB, are also provided, as well as capacity building support to local health authorities on the prevention and treatment of communicable diseases with a focus on TB, HIV/AIDs, as well as other public health initiatives.

Mental healthcare and psychosocial services to migrants, IDPs and host communities

In Libya, IOM established three social and recreational centres for families in 2012, organized a Master’s Degree program in psychosocial interventions in war torn areas at the University of Tripoli, and trained 30 local NGOs and CSOs in MHPSS. The Social and Recreational Centre in Tripoli has remained active for several years despite the prevailing security conditions. IOM will continue to partner with Libyan NGOs trained in providing Psychosocial Support Services (PSS) through the provision of refresher trainings and capacity building within local communities. Additionally, IOM will replicate the Master’s Degree program in order to build capacity amongst the next generation of students to provide services to the displaced population and local community members alike.

Due to alarming reports received from IOM’s implementing partners regarding the deplorable conditions in detention centres where migrants, especially women and unaccompanied minors, are subject to multiple human rights violations (e.g. discrimination, physical and sexual abuse, forced labour, etc.), IOM will continue to support migrants with psychosocial support. This program has the possibility to expand through the establishment of mobile teams to provide assistance to migrants residing in urban settings. IOM will train NGO partners in skills related to advocacy and the provision of services to vulnerable migrants. This will include training personnel on psychosocial support delivery, the specific needs of men, women and children, and ‘do no harm’ principles, as well as promoting social cohesion. In the medium and long term, IOM will work towards the creation of a National Referral Mechanism for vulnerable migrants, the development of a National Plan of Action on addressing trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and supporting the finalization of anti-trafficking legislation on protection, prevention, and prosecution. IOM will also assess the possibility to establish temporary shelters for VoTs and UMC, where security allows. IOM will also establish Migration Response and Resource Mechanisms (MRRMs) in select Libyan municipalities to deliver basic assistance, information and referral services.

Rescue at Sea and Immediate Assistance to Migrants

In order to prevent further unnecessary and tragic deaths at sea and to alleviate the suffering of desperate migrants embarking upon the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea, IOM is implement appropriate programming. Working together with the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG), the Libyan Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM), the Italian Coast Guard, and other relevant actors, IOM will establish Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to provide assistance to migrants rescued at sea. The SOPs will include best measures to promote successful identification of those who die or go missing at sea. This can involve including questions on the missing/dead in interviews with survivors, retrieval of bodies, as well as proper management of bodies to improve the likelihood of identification. The SOPs will refer to the assistance to be provided upon disembarkation after search and rescue (SAR) operations, procedures for the safe disembarkation of migrants from smugglers’ vessels, provision of immediate assistance for men, women and children, vulnerability screenings and identification protocols, referrals to access further assistance, and other sustainable solutions.

IOM will provide capacity building support including training, infrastructure and equipment support to the Libyan Coast Guard and other stakeholders for implementation at three designated points of disembarkation around Tripoli and in the West of the country. In addition, IOM will provide immediate direct assistance to migrants intercepted at sea which will include triage, health care, referral services, food, and non-food items. Migrants will be medically screened, registered, and classified based upon vulnerability, referred to immediate assistance if needed, and informed and educated about the Humanitarian Repatriation and Reintegration program, which would support migrants return to their countries of origin.

Protection of vulnerable migrants

IOM will map protection services available to vulnerable migrants with particular emphasis on victims of trafficking (VoTs), Unaccompanied Migrant Children (UMC), migrants with serious medical conditions (including HIV/AIDS), and other categories of those at-risk. Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs) will be developed in conjunction with all identified stakeholders on assisting vulnerable migrants, drawing upon global standards and recent developments in the field. For vulnerable migrants outside of detention centres, IOM will establish and provide access to migrant community networks for early identification of vulnerable migrants and provision of referral services to those in need. IOM will continue to advocate for the regularization of migrants’ status, alternatives to detention, and improved access to basic services, including health. IOM will develop and disseminate multi-media campaigns that transmit messages regarding safe migration practices and the dangers of irregular migration. Campaigns will raise awareness meant to discourage the very productive smuggling and trafficking activities that have spilled over into Libya especially from the Southern desert of Niger. This campaign will complement similar activities in the North of the country regarding irregular journeys in the Central Mediterranean.

IOM Awareness Campaigns

Media campaigns will include meetings with institutional actors, civil society representatives and representatives from the media to discuss development of Libya’s migration policy and best practices on migration-related issues (integration and community cohesion, human rights protection, intercultural mediation, migration and urban dynamics, migration and media, among others). It will include development of messages on migrants’ legal status, their right to basic services, and the dangers of irregular migration, and it will mainly target southern parts of Libya. The local authorities and local tribal representatives will be involved in the development of the key messages for best impact results. IOM will continue to support its established Centre for Psychosocial Support of Multakana in the locality of Tripoli. The Centre provides psychosocial and physical support to migrants in need in the Abu Sleem area. IOM will also establish and consolidate support networks to create a more robust referral system to provide assistance to vulnerable migrants — regardless of status — through cooperation with local communities and NGOs. Expansion to two other areas of the country will be undertaken to replicate interventions similar to the Multakana centre based on the experience and lessons learned from Multakana centre.

IOM Libya activities are funded by:


Last updated: September 2016

Population (2015):6.3 million
Area:1,770,000 km sq
Languages :Arabic
Currency:Libyan Dinar (LYD)
GDP per Capita PPP (2014):USD 15,605
HDI Rank (2014):94 of 188
Net Migration Rate (2015-2020):-0.3 migrants/1,000 population
Immigrants (2015):12.3%
Women as a Percentage of Immigrants (2015):28.8%
Population under 15 (2015):29.8%

International Organization for Migration (IOM)
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