As clashes rage in western Libya, where all sides of
the conflict appear set on sustaining the violence, the country's
refugee and displacement crisis in recent weeks has shifted primarily to
the Tunisian border. But roughly 800 migrants, mostly of African
origin, who fled violence and discrimination in war-torn Libya, remain
in limbo in Salloum.
Nearly three months after violence erupted in Libya, these migrants are both expectant of the future and nostalgic for the past.
was too good," Hawa Absor, Somali by origin but a Benghazi and Brega
resident for the 15 years of her life, said as she sat outside the
terminal, garbed in a brown headscarf with green and yellow Islamic
dress. "We stayed for two days in Brega during the bombings. Then the
thowar [revolutionaries] said to us 'You have to leave now.'"
along with two sisters, a brother, and her parents, has spent more than
two and a half months at the border point. Until two weeks ago, the
family slept outside without shelter. Plummeting nighttime temperatures
and strong winds make conditions on the plateau above Salloum difficult
Absor said she recently saw footage of her former
community in Brega, now flattened. Her older sister, a college student
in Tripoli, has been unable to reunite with the family. Communication,
she said, was cut two weeks ago, and Absor's parents have not talked to
their daughter since. But Absor said she believes the uprising is still
worthy of the hardship wrought in its path.
"It's good," she says. "You have to make democracy."
the rebels challenged his rule in the east, Libyan leader Muammar
Qaddafi hired mercenaries from Sub-Saharan Africa to fight the unrest
sweeping the country. Though rebels claims to treat captured mercenaries
humanely, the fight against mercenaries has fostered an atmosphere of
discrimination and an attitude of suspicion towards Libya's foreign
African communities. And it fueled an exodus that continues today.
a Darfuri migrant, who refused to give her last name, said rebel forces
visited her family's house in Benghazi two and a half weeks ago to
carry a warning.
"They said 'You have three days and then go,'"
Mona recalled. "Thirty men came to our house with guns and said, 'This
is our house. Go away.'"
Though the migrants remain in political
limbo, the international community is working to provide for their
basics needs. The International Committee for the Red Cross, the World
Food Program, and local Salloum residents all contribute one halal meal
daily per migrant. Doctors and nurses operate out of a small hospital
inside one terminal and from medical trailers parked outside.
life here is hard but the UN gives a lot for them. Food, water,
medicine," said Mohamed Gad, a 21-year-old Cairene on his fifth
volunteer delegation to the border. "They give them everything."