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Libya Expels Growing Number of Chadian Migrants

  • Lisa Schlein

The International Organization for Migration is expressing concern about the growing number of Chadian migrants being expelled from Libya. The Geneva-based IOM reports more than 1,000 vulnerable Chadian migrants have arrived at the northern Chadian town of Faya since January.

The IOM says the majority have traveled for up to two weeks across the desert without enough food, water or protection from the blazing sun during the day and freezing temperatures at night.

IOM spokesman Jumbe Omare Jumbe says a recent group of 180 migrants arrived at the IOM transit center in Faya in an extremely dehydrated condition. He says one migrant died upon arrival and two others had died on the road.

He says Libyan authorities have told the migrants they had to leave the country because they lacked the right documents to live and work there. But Jumbe says many of the migrants believe there are other reasons behind their expulsion.

"The migrants tell us that the Libyans suspect them of being mercenaries," he said. "This has been corroborated so many times since the beginning of the war in Libya. The opposition, who is now the new government in Libya, was saying it in the media that the Africans, sub-Saharan Africans, are helping the previous government of Colonel Gadhafi."

There were an estimated 300,000 Chadian migrants living in Libya when the war to topple Gadhafi began two years ago. The Chadian government reports about half of those migrants have returned home. IOM says it believes at least 100,000 Chadians remain in Libya.

Jumbe says Chadians targeted for deportation are put in detention centers, where they can remain anywhere from one month to one year. He says IOM sources report about 80 percent of these detention centers are run by militias with no official links with Libya's central government.

He says many of the migrants, including the most recent arrivals, have complained of being ill treated in these detention centers.

"Members of this group told us about beatings, many beatings, bad mouthing, being told that they are sub-humans, monkeys and things like that, and being denied food, water and medicine, particularly medicines," he said. "They told us that some of their colleagues actually died inside the detention centers."

The International Organization for Migration says it expects the expulsions to continue, following an apparent policy change by the Libyan authorities toward undocumented migrants. IOM is appealing to Libya to treat the migrants humanely.

The cash-strapped organization also is appealing for an initial $500,000 to help it provide life-saving assistance to the vulnerable Chadian migrants.

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