Since the beginning of the war in Libya, more than one million1 civilians have fled the conflict, most of them crossing land borders to Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Chad, Niger, and Sudan. Others have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Malta and Italy. Regardless of their nationality, or the original reason for their presence in Libya, these people are seeking refuge from a war. They are fleeing fighting and violence, and sometimes targeted abuses. They include men, women, children, and the elderly, and they are fleeing for their lives.
These victims of war are seeking refuge wherever they can, hoping to find safety. As well as Libyans, there are people from Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, and at least 20 other countries. Those labeled 'third-country nationals' by international agencies are people who have already fled their countries of origin, escaping war, violence or poverty, in search of a way to survive. Many were already in an extremely precarious position when they traveled to Libya.
This is the hidden story of the Libyan conflict. The war is having an impact not only on Libyan nationals, but also on the 2.5 million migrants who have come there to work or live or are passing through to reach another destination. With its open borders policy, Libya attracted workers from the Arab world, sub-Saharan Africa, and other developing countries for many years. Over the last decade, as the country became a major partner in the 'fight' against undocumented immigration to Europe, Libya adopted a more restrictive approach towards migration.