Briefing Paper

Project: Centre on Global Health Security

Khalid Koser
  • At its peak during the Libyan conflict, migration to Tunisia and Egypt was massive, even in the context of a region where large-scale migration has become the norm.
  • In the case of Libya, at least five categories of migration can be distinguished: evacuating migrant workers, Libyan nationals moving into Egypt and Tunisia, 'boat people' arriving in the EU, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and asylum-seekers and refugees.
  • The international policy response in Libya was hampered by restricted access. IDPs therefore received limited assistance and protection, and migrant workers, especially from sub-Saharan Africa, experienced harassment and abuse.
  • The policy response in neighbouring states, especially Egypt and Tunisia, was far more robust.
  • The political response in the EU to the relatively small proportion of migrants who reached Europe is considered by many commentators to have been disproportionate.
  • The crisis has highlighted a gap in the international regime for protecting IDPs, and in particular migrant workers. It has also called into question the relevance to modern humanitarian crises of a dated refugee definition. More positively, the response has demonstrated how international agencies can cooperate, and there has been unprecedented cooperation between IOM and UNHCR to respond to 'mixed flows' from Libya.
  • Responsibility for managing migration now falls to the new government in Libya.