Migration Trends in Libya

Since 2011 Libya has continued to be an important hosting country for migrants driven to migrate due to economic reasons: the lack of access to livelihood opportunities in countries of origin can be the result of many factors, including climate change, ongoing conflict, or fragile state structures. For many migrants, trying to attain access to livelihoods elsewhere can often be a matter of survival. Therefore, in spite of the ongoing conflict in Libya, the country has continued to present opportunities for migrants to earn income and support their families back home.

The distribution of migrants across different parts of Libya varies: the East of Libya does not host as many migrants as the Western coastal region, which acts as one of the most popular transit points for those hoping to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. The port of the city of Benghazi remains closed and the sea passage to Europe is far longer than from coastal locations in the West. Furthermore, the conflict in the Benghazi region over the last two years has acted as a deterrent to smugglers and migrants alike. However, there is frequent migrant movement between the borders of Libya and Egypt, near Emsaed, with migrants continuing through Tobruk towards the West.

Libya’s southwestern borders have been sites of frequent cross-border movement, although recent reports indicate that a tighter security presence along the borders has reduced the flow of migrants into Libya from those areas. Crossing the border into Libya, some migrants face the danger of landmines left behind by past warfare, and risk dehydration in the desert due to long and dangerous journeys, during which vehicles can break down.

Migrants face challenging conditions during their journey, confronting major security concerns including detention1, extortion, and kidnappings for ransom, which have been linked to the worsening economic situation in Libya. Those who remain in Libya to work are vulnerable due to challenges in obtaining valid residence or work permits. On the other hand, those who choose to continue to Europe are at risk of exploitation at the hands of traffickers.

In 2016, 181,436 migrants arrived to Italy’s shores, most of them having departed from Libya with the main countries of origin being Nigeria, Eritrea, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Gambia. IOM’s Missing Migrants Project recorded more deaths in the Mediterranean than ever before: 5,082 individuals were reported as dead or missing in the Mediterranean in 2016, 90% of whom had been travelling on the Central Mediterranean route (4,579 deaths in the Central Mediterranean). Survivors who do reach Europe report violence and abuse by people traffickers.