Sudanese in Libya: from workers to refugees and illegal immigrants

Sudanese in Libya: from workers to refugees and illegal immigrants

Until recently Libya was considered as a destination for Sudanese, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese immigrate to Libya for work, the Sudanese population in Libya estimated to be 500,000 people half of them are Darfurians, increased number of them arrived to Libya fleeing the conflict in the neighboring Darfur region looking for safety and work to survive. In fact even before the crisis in 2011, unemployment rate in Libya is at high level. Moreover, current crisis in Libya have devastated the economy, the production of oil which represent approximately 99% of the government revenue fell to 22,000 barrel per-day, before conflict the oil production was 1.77 million per-day. Other economic activities affected by destruction of infrastructures, production facilities and limited access to foreign exchange.

The devastated economy and insecurity in Libya have complicated and increased the Sudanese community vulnerabilities. Most of them lost their jobs; hence, they are not any more affording to support their families and relatives as they usually do before the crisis. Given the ongoing conflict in Sudan they are not able to return home as many of them are from the war torn regions. Their status transformed from foreign workers into refugees. As refugees, the Sudanese are suffering lack of protection, shelters and access to basic services and that due to the fact that Libya is not a signatory to the 1951 refugees’ convention. Moreover, the absence and limited access of UNHCR and other international organization that concerned with refugees and human rights. In addition, the weak state authority in areas where most of the Sudanese refugees are staying. Thus, the Sudanese refugees are exposed to indiscriminate killings, kidnapping, detention and forcible labor, forcible recruitment. These violations committed by conflict parties, some of these parties accusing Sudan government or Sudanese rebels of interfering into Libyan affairs.

For instance in press release that issued on August 7th 2014, by Sudanese Committee in Libya 16 Sudanese have been killed in crossfire  during  battle between Libyans conflicting parties in Tripoli. In May 2011 an estimated number of 4000 Sudanese crossed the border into Tunisia; they resettled in Shosha refugees’ camp. The camp was attacked and burned by local Tunisians, in this incident 2 Sudanese refugees were killed, the victims’ names are al Umer Ali Abdulnabi from Zalingi town which located in Darfur, the other victim name is Idriss Abdulbagi from Al Gazzera state that located in the middle of Sudan.  A recent media report that published in Sudan Tribune newspaper on May 27th 2016 indicated that 300 Sudanese families have fled from the towns of Sirte and Derna after been captured by ISIS, these families arrived to al Zawia town that located 48 km west of Tripoli. Also Sudanese families have fled Benghazi, Ajdabiya and Sibratha towns following clashes between Libyan factions.

The combination of the dire living conditions of the Sudanese refugees in Libya, the violent conflict and the political crisis in their country have made have irregular migration to Europe as the only option. In 2015 Italy has received 153,840 illegal immigrants, 9000 out of this number are Sudanese[1].  According to Dr. Bashir al Kout the Mediterranean Research Center manager at the International Organization for Cooperation and Emergency Aid (IOCEA) many Sudanese lost their lives during the attempt of irregular migration through the Mediterranean but it is difficult to establish the exact number because the bodies buried without proper documentation. UNHCR reported that 10 Sudanese have lost their lives during illegal migration attempt through Libya in the first 5 months of 2016.  According to Dr. Abdulmunim al Hur the Arab Human Rights Organization –Libya Branch G. Secretary (AHRO – Libya), there are 9 illegal immigrants’ detentions centers across the country, in each center around 4000 to 5000 foreign national, 10% among those detainees are Sudanese[2]. Dr. Abdulmunim al Hur added that the number of the detention centers was 19, ten centers were closed by the authorities in February 2016 due to lack of resources.

The plight of the Sudanese refugees in Libya continues, they have been left with hard choices as conflict and political crisis in Sudan remain unresolved. ACS calls for a joint initiative led by the Sudanese human rights organizations and the concerned regional and international bodies to address the Sudanese refugees’ crisis in Libya.

[1] Dr. Bashir al Kout interview – June 2016

[2] Interview with Dr. Abdulmunim al Hur – June 2016


The Sudanese in Libya The Sudanese in Libya