GENEVA - The United Nations refugee agency says nearly 2,000 members of a persecuted ethnic minority group in Libya fled a displaced persons camp last week after raids by local militias. The agency says the Tawergha are now dispersed in a precarious state throughout the country.
The UNHCR says the entire population of the IDP settlement in Tripoli was forcibly evicted following three nights of indiscriminate raids.
UNHCR spokesman William Spindler says 94 residents were arbitrarily arrested by local militia. He says some women and girls were threatened with rape.
“The IDPs had to flee their homes at short notice, taking only a few belongings with them. The IDPs are now dispersed, living in various areas in which they have relatives or acquaintances, including other IDP settlements. Some families who owned cars are now sleeping in them.”
The Tawergha are descendants of black-skinned African slaves. Their treatment under deposed dictator Muammar Gadhafi was better than under previous regimes. During the civil war, the Tawergha were viewed as being in support of Gadhafi, which enraged his enemies.
As a form of collective punishment, the Libyan militia forced all 40,000 residents of Tawergha city to flee in 2011, turning the city into a ghost town.
Spindler tells VOA the Tawergha continue to be subjected to persecution and discrimination.
“We are concerned about them moving to other settlements where they could also face similar attacks and we have seen people from the city of Tawergha in other settlements also fleeing already in anticipation of being attacked,” he said.
Spindler says the Tawergha so far have been prevented from returning to their city of origin, though there are moves to allow them to return.
Last December, the internationally backed government in Tripoli announced a plan that would allow the Tawergha to go back to their homes in February. However, they were prevented from doing so by a local militia.