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Libyan Crisis Highlighted Migrant Workers Plight

  • Joe DeCapua

Migrant workers, who used to work in Libya and fled the recent unrest in the country, are seen in a refugee camp at the Tunisia-Libyan border, in Ras Ajdir, Tunisia, March 9, 2011. (AP Image)

Migrant workers, who used to work in Libya and fled the recent unrest in the country, are seen in a refugee camp at the Tunisia-Libyan border, in Ras Ajdir, Tunisia, March 9, 2011. (AP Image)

The 2011 Libyan crisis raised awareness of the plight migrant workers face when caught in the middle of conflict. The International Organization for Migration says comprehensive, long-term plans are needed to avoid similar humanitarian and economic problems to those that developed during and after the Libyan uprising. The IOM call for a better response comes on International Migrants Day (12/18).


More than 200,000 migrants were evacuated from Libya in 2011. Most were from poor countries who had gone to Libya to find work. Some were documented, many were not.

IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy said the issue of migrants in the midst of conflict or natural disasters is not a new one.

“I spent the summer of 2006 in Lebanon. And at the time we were evacuating mostly female domestic workers from the Philippines or Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and the rest. And I remember at the time how difficult it was to basically raise awareness of the protection and evacuation needs of those migrant workers.”

Chauzy said while the evacuation of migrant workers from Libya received international funding and was a success, it exposed some problems.

“A year on we have to recognize the fact that little attention has been paid to the reintegration needs of those returning migrants. These are migrants returning to food insecure areas. They’re coming back empty-handed. The remittances they used to send back to families have now stopped,” he said.

The Libyan crisis also had wide-ranging regional economic consequences.

“A country like Chad or Niger managed to get a loan from the World Bank to offer some kind of financial reintegration for those returning migrants. All the other countries that were affected by the Libyan conflict have suffered,” said Chauzy.

While much attention was given to thousands of migrants making their way to Europe, many more crossed Libyan borders into neighboring countries.

“Very often the plight of migrants comes very last when responses are being organized in reaction to conflicts or man-made disasters. Yet, we know that we live in a world of global mobility when more and more people are on the move, more and more migrants are on the move. There’s very little understanding that stranded migrants, minors, victims of human trafficking, who are also vulnerable, deserve also not just evacuation assistance, but also protection assistance,” he said.

The International organization for Migration is seeking widespread support for its Migration Crisis Operational Framework. It says the framework “addresses the needs of people crossing borders, who are not covered under current international protection because their displacement is not related to persecution.”
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