On Wednesday, the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, issued a flash report detailing the situation in Sabratha. The clashes in Sabratha had taken a tremendous toll on property and the living conditions of citizens.
According to their report, there are currently 217,022 internally displaced Libyans and 43,133 registered refugees. In 2017 alone, 106,488 people have arrived in Italy, taking the coastal route through Libya. The emphasis being that in Libya the refugee and migrant crisis is central to overall stability in the country.
As the clashes in Sabratha unfolded, internally displaced persons (IDP), refugees, and migrants were largely affected. It is reported that 3,000 families were displaced due to the clashes, 2,000 of which were able to return following ceasefire efforts. Also, 5,000 refugees and migrants were reported to have spent the night at the Dahman assembly point; with more coming in to UNHCR centres. In addition, it is reported that 500 houses were totally or partially destroyed by the clashes.
The extent of the damage has created a pressing need for humanitarian aid. UNHCR reported that they are closely working with LibAid and Sabratha Local Crisis Committee to support IDPs. Shelter, water, core relief items, and medical and psychological support are needed for IDPs, refugees, and migrants.
UNHCR efforts have been focused on the distribution of CRI kits and medical support; yet more aid is needed to help overcome this crisis.
Sabratha has been a central location for smuggling given its coastal location west of Tripoli and half way to Tunis. The city has been under battle between an armed alliance called the ‘Operations Unit for Combatting ISIS in Sabratha’ and ISIS militants responsible for major migrant smuggling.
The Operations Unit has links to the UN-backed Government of National Accord. Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Dignity Operation, has also tried to claim ties to the Operations Unit, however, the spokesperson for the unit has denied any such links.
The battles in Sabratha had triggered condemnation from many parties across Libya and abroad, including UNESCO who called for the protection of cultural heritage in the city.