(Note: If you or a refugee or migrant you know needs assistance in Libya, call the UNHCR hotline for refugees & asylum-seekers in Libya at +218214777503)
In the most ironic turn of events, Libya’s political and humanitarian crisis has somehow landed in Somalia’s lap. Yes that’s right, you heard me. Somalia.
On Monday, as calls urging for greater protection over the rights of Sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees in Libya increased, Libya’s Envoy for Somalia, Ambassador Issee Rabii Ashour ran to the press, to assure every that Libya had the best interests of Somalis at heart.
Isse Rabii Ashour, the Libyan ambassador to Somalia on Monday promised to help Somali refugees in Libya as unrest and violent demonstrations against Libyan leader Moammar Al Ghadafi and his regime are continuing to rage. Ashour indicated that Libya is committed to assist Somali refugees in its country, saying that they could no longer bear Somalis to be killed intentionally. He stressed the Libyan government will prevent the individuals who target the fleeing Somalis in Libya.
“Of course, we can feel and understand the worry and woe have the Somali people, but the situation is not how it is thought. Somalis, who live in Libya, as I told you lead in peaceful atmosphere” the Libyan ambassador was quoted by Shabelle as saying.
Just one day later, reports surfaced that Ashour was – strangely enough – granted political asylum to Somalia. Political asylum! Oh the irony just kills me.
Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed, the prime minister of Somali transitional federal government has on Tuesday announced it had given political asylum to Isse rabii Anshour, the Libyan ambassador to Somalia as the unrest is continuing to rage in Libya.
The step came after the Libyan ambassador to Somalia resigned his portfolio. In utilizing the chance, the prime minister called the Libyan people to respect Somali people who live in their country.
For his part, Libyan ambassador to Somalia, Isse rabii Anshour has thanked Somali government for giving him the political asylum. The ambassadors hailed his people not harm Somali refugees in Libya and help them as much possible as they could.
So let’s get this straight. Libya goes out of its way, professing its support and commitment to protect Somalis stuck in Libya, but then literally does an about face and runs for cover one day later to Somalia.
Somalia. The world’s greatest humanitarian crisis on the very brink of another humanitarian disaster. What many consider a failed state – a country engulfed in violence and chaos for over twenty years without any form of centralized governance or authorized body. And this is where Libya’s Ashour sought refuge?
As of press time, Ashour now denies that he ever sought asylum or fled to Somalia. But what is he doing there when his government has collapsed? Why isn’t he aiding the Somalis and working inside Libya to help protect them?
More importantly, what now for the people of the Horn in Libya? The International Organization of Migration estimates that approximately ten percent of Libya’s population are Sub-Saharan African migrants. Of that, at least 1.5 million foreign residents are from Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. These residents are stuck in Libya, without any recourse from their respective governments or any protection of their basic rights in Libya.
As tensions rise, local suspicions have grown towards the large Sub-Saharan community, which also includes a very large but undocumented number of refugees and trafficked persons. Rights groups are reporting that these residents are being targeted and subject to attacks, beatings and even being killed.
The Libyan government’s agenda at this point is clearly that of survival. Ashour’s decision to leave Libya right at the height of the crisis leaves deep suspicion about his motiviations for departing when he did. Perhaps he underestimated the power of Somali media and social networks, that he had to rush to the press to clarify his position. Only time will tell. But for the millions of innocent Libyans, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Somalis, Sudanese, and Djiboutians, the last thing they need is another government official abdicating their responsibility to serve and protect them as citizens and residents.
The UNHCR set up hotline for refugees & asylum-seekers in Libya, in an attempt to provide assistance and support to those stuck in country. The number to dial is: +218214777503.