Operation: Opération: Libya



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Key Figures

2019 year-end results
2,029 refugees and asylum-seekers departed the country through evacuations to Italy, the Emergency Transit Centre (ETC) in Romania, and the Emergency Transit Mechanisms (ETM) in Niger and Rwanda; of this, 1,385 people of concern were evacuated through the Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF)
842  people departed Libya and arrived in their resettlement country in 2019; 813 were resettled from urban areas, and 29 were evacuated through the GDF
9,800 shelter kits were distributed to IDPs in eastern Libya, through partner NGOs
1,100 IDP and IDP returnee households received multipurpose cash assistance
77%  of refugees and asylum-seekers were provided with individual documentation
37%  of refugees and asylum-seekers were registered on an individual basis
2020 planning figures
90% of IDPs will have their needs for basic and domestic items met 
80% of refugees and asylum-seekers will have access to primary health care
100,000 IDPs and returnees will be assisted with core-relief items, cash-based interventions and shelter 
10,000 asylum-seekers will be registered on an individual basis
3,000 vulnerable refugee cases will be identified for resettlement

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2019 405,499
2018 270,379
2017 375,840


[["Refugees",4739],["Asylum-seekers",40719],["IDPs",355672],["Returned IDPs",4369]]
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2019 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[23.865039,74.07170781,84.99999797,88.65192263,84.09895773000001,90.56838409999999],"expenditure":[12.12147176,44.152994340000006,44.23830207,46.566646899999995,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[18.82037598,59.926439810000005,74.34143297,61.683092509999994,57.35862495000001,63.82805131],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[5.04466302,14.145268,10.658565,26.96883012,26.740332780000003,26.74033279]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[9.79650861,33.18794716,34.22795101,39.48337762,null,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[2.32496315,10.96504718,10.01035106,7.083269280000001,null,null]}
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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020

Operational context

In 2019, the overall political and security situation in Libya remained volatile. The outbreak of open hostilities in April led to further internal displacement while limiting UNHCR’s access to people of concern.

Despite a significant decrease in sea departures across the central Mediterranean, the Libyan Coast Guard continued interception operations. UNHCR provided support at disembarkation points, providing over 5,000 individuals with rescue kits. For those transferred to detention centres, UNHCR carried out over 1,200 monitoring visits, however despite advocating for the release of nearly 1,800 people in need of international protection, conditions of access to detainees remained restrictive.

Until November 2019, UNHCR was permitted to register nine nationalities, with registration outside those nine in exceptional cases, restricting the assistance. UNHCR operated three community day centres across Libya, where people could access registration support, cash assistance, child protection and sexual and gender-based violence services, and primary health care. However, following an escalation in hostilities, only one centre was operational from July onwards.

The sharp deterioration in the security situation led to a limited and reduced UNHCR staff presence. A rise in internal displacement from April 2019 impacted heavily on the delivery of assistance, while restricting the movement of prospective returnees. Despite the challenging operating environment, over 22,000 IDPs received non-food items. In order to foster peaceful coexistence and resilience, UNHCR and its partners (in consultation with local authorities), sought the active participation of host communities and IDPs through quick impact projects.

Refugees and asylum-seekers benefitted from evacuations to Emergency Transit Mechanisms (ETMs) established in Niger and Rwanda, to the Emergency Transit Centre (ETC) in Romania, as well as through humanitarian corridors to Italy.

Population trends

In 2019, an estimated 1.1 million people required humanitarian assistance in Libya, including some 355,700 IDPs; 447,400 IDP returnees (cumulatively since 2017); and 45,500 refugees and asylum-seekers, 4.5% of whom were believed to have been detained. The vast majority of refugees and asylum-seekers lived in an urban context.

More than 2,300 refugees and asylum-seekers departed the country through resettlement (842) and evacuation (1,534).


  • The GDF, managed by UNHCR together with an NGO partner under overall responsibility of the Government, opened in December 2018 as an alternative to detention, and provided shelter, food, medical care, and processing for evacuation and resettlement. However, due to security threats and significant overcrowding, UNHCR reevaluated the status of the GDF as it evolved from a transit and hosting facility towards an open centre.
  • Despite a complex protection environment, refugees and asylum-seekers of the nine nationalities registered by UNHCR (plus a few exceptional cases) continued to have access to essential services and registration. UNHCR was able to issue protection letters and provided access to refugee status determination and resettlement, despite the security conditions.
  • In close coordination with Italy and Niger, UNHCR evacuated hundreds of people from detention to the ETM in Niger, where they were considered for durable solutions including resettlement, as well as transfer via humanitarian corridor to Italy or through the ETC in Romania. In 2019, a new ETM was launched in Rwanda in partnership with the African Union and the Government of Rwanda.

Unmet needs

  • A volatile operating environment prevented UNHCR from having full access to people of concern across the country. This resulted in gaps in registration and the issuance of documents to people of concern. The funding level for the operation by end-2019 stood at 69%.
  • Cash liquidity impacted the implementation of multipurpose cash programmes in Libya, due to insufficient banking systems. Additionally, accommodation became increasingly inaccessible for refugees and asylum-seekers due to inflated rental costs.
  • The displacement of 149,000 new IDPs during the year placed an additional strain on UNHCR’s ability to deliver protection services such as cash assistance, legal support, and livelihood and income-generating activities.

Operational Environment

In Libya, an estimated 1.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance according to the 2018 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), with limited or no access to basic commodities and essential services. Among these are internally displaced people (IDPs), returnees, refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants. The people of concern to UNHCR are among the most vulnerable.
As of October 2018, UNHCR has registered more than 57,600 refugees and asylum-seekers in Libya, with more than 11,000 people registered in 2018 alone. The conditions of refugees and migrants in detention centres remain of grave concern. UNHCR estimates that 5,400 individuals are detained in Libya, out of whom 3,900 are of concern to UNHCR. In addition, there were some 193,600 IDPs and more than 382,200 returnees.
It is estimated that approximately 10,000 asylum-seekers to whom UNHCR has access will be in need of registration and documentation in 2019, bringing the total number of refugees and asylum-seekers to 70,000. UNHCR estimates that between 65,000 and 68,000 asylum-seekers and refugees will be registered with UNHCR by the end of 2018.
UNHCR’s role as lead agency for the Protection and Shelter/NFI sectors, as well as co-lead agency for the Cash and Markets Working Group and the Mixed Migration response (together with IOM), makes it a key player in the coordination structure for the overall humanitarian response in Libya.
UNHCR’s strategy and priorities for 2019:
Protection of IDPs and returnees. UNHCR aims to reach all areas where displaced and returnee Libyans are living, security conditions permitting, with a view to meeting basic needs, ensuring the provision of  essential services to help make returns sustainable, including through supporting the reintegration process.
  • Investment in broad asylum-building and migration management efforts to address the movement of migrants and refugees who embark on perilous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea. There is a need to create more regular and safe ways for refugees to find safety and international protection, and to address the root causes of displacement.
  • Advocacy for alternatives to detention. Conditions in detention are deplorable. UNHCR is advocating for the release of refugees and asylum-seekers from detention with the aim of finding solutions for the most vulnerable.
  • Increase of durable solutions in third countries for refugees in Libya.

Key priorities

In 2019, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Strongly advocating for alternatives to detention and explore durable solutions for refugees both in detention and in urban communities. This will be implemented through robust identification tools, solid case management and referrals. In 2019, UNHCR will continue to scale-up its resettlement and humanitarian evacuation programmes, in addition to offering the option to return to a previous country of admission. UNHCR plans to submit between 2,000 and 5,000 cases for resettlement in 2019, with the possibility to increase up to 10,000 persons over the next three years through evacuations and other complementary pathways.
  • Supporting IDPs and returnees with protection, shelter rehabilitation and emergency shelter assistance. UNHCR aims to support 100,000 people of concern with shelter assistance in 2019.
  • Supporting IDPs with the provision of targeted humanitarian assistance, enhanced protection monitoring and referral mechanisms and investment in social cohesion through quick-impact projects benefitting both displaced and hosting communities.
  • Enhancing its response for refugees and asylum-seekers living in urban areas through its Community Day Centres and outreach teams. UNHCR will continue to carry out registration, provide medical, cash-based and legal assistance, as well as provide vocational training for people of concern. Ensuring the protection of people of concern traveling in mixed movements, through humanitarian interventions at disembarkation points, land crossings and advocacy for a protection sensitive migration management system.
Latest contributions
  • 25-NOV-2020
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 24-NOV-2020
  • 23-NOV-2020
    Saudi Arabia

    private donors

  • 19-NOV-2020
  • 18-NOV-2020
  • Japan

    private donors

  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 17-NOV-2020
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

    private donors

  • 16-NOV-2020
  • 13-NOV-2020
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

    private donors

  • Hungary
  • United States of America

    private donors

  • 12-NOV-2020
  • Japan

    private donors

  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

    private donors

  • Sweden
  • Spain
  • 11-NOV-2020
  • Argentina
  • 10-NOV-2020
    United States of America

    private donors