Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Libya Gives UNHCR The 'Order Of The Boot'

The Libyan government has decided to kick the UNHCR out of the country. Libya, which is not a signatory of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, has no asylum system of its own and has never been particularly accommodating to the UNHCR. In fact, the UNHCR has effective been operating in the country under sufferance, with no formal agreement having been negotiated between the agency and the Libyan government. Almost all contact between the two bodies has been via third parties such as International Centre for Migration Policy Development, the International Organization for Peace, Care and Relief (a Libyan NGO) and, more importantly, the International Organisation for Migration.*

Despite having a presence in Libya since 1991, it was only in the past couple of years that the UNHCR had been granted limited access to Libyan detention centres. However the signing of the 'push-back policy' agreement with the Italian state has seen increased frostiness between the UN body and Libyan authorities following UNHCR criticism of both governments.

The UNHCR have been given no deadline nor any reason for the decision and the fate of the 9,000 or so refugees and 3,700 asylum seekers that the organisation has so far registered in Libya, together with the healthcare, shelter, education and training programmes and legal advice services that it provides, is not known.

* For more information on the background of UNHCR activities in Libya see: [1], [2], [3], [4].

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