North Africa
Libya migrants

UN tells migrants to leave Libya ‘transit center’

The UN says it is unable to help most residents of an overcrowded refugee center in the Libyan capital it once touted as a safe haven. To encourage people to go, it is offering money and aid—and even telling them they won’t be able to register as refugees to leave the war-torn country if they remain. Originally intended as a temporary residence for a small fraction of refugees—just those already vetted by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and scheduled for evacuation or permanent residency in other countries—the Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) now has some 1,150 residents, well over its stated capacity. Most arrived over the last eight months of clashes in Tripoli, including 900 who UNHCR says entered “informally”; some even bribed their way in to escape more oppressive conditions at other facilities run by the Libyan government. But conditions are now rapidly deteriorating at the GDF as well. (Photo of Triq al-Sikka migrant detention center via TNH)

North Africa
Libya migrant center

Controversy at UN migrant facility in Libya

The UN’s holding facility for undocumented migrants in Libya was unveiled last year as an “alternative to detention,” but critics now say it is coming to mirror the notoriously harsh detention centers it was supposed to replace. The facility is overcrowded with nearly 1,200 migrants—about twice the number it was built for—including hundreds who fled from abuse at other detention centers in hopes of sanctuary. Conditions inside are deteriorating fast, and there are accusations that the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is planning to force migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers to leave by cutting off food (a claim the agency denies). The people inside are among an estimated 600,000 migrants in Libya, including more than 45,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers. Some have come in search of work, others are hoping to make the incredibly dangerous trip to Europe. Those who risk it are often “rescued” by the Libyan coast guard and returned to land, and end up in the country’s oppressive detention centers—which is among the reasons a recent French plan to give the Libyan coast guard more boats met with strong opposition. (Photo: Sara Creta/MSF via TNH)

North Africa
drone

Drone wars over Libya

With the forces of eastern strongman Khalifa Hifter stalled outside Tripoli in his drive to oust Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), both sides have been sniping at each other with drone strikes. Experts say that Haftar has procured Chinese-made Wing Loong drones from his main backer, the United Arab Emirates. The GNA, meanwhile, has turned to Ankara, its own increasingly open backer, which is believed to be supplying Turkish Bayraktar drones. Over 1,000 have been killed, close to 6,000 injured, and 120,000 displaced in the battle for Tripoli, which opened a year ago. (Photo of Wing Loong II drone via Xinhua)

North Africa

UN, African Union to evacuate refugees from Libya

The government of Rwanda, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the African Union signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a transit mechanism for evacuating refugees out of Libya. According to a joint statement, around 4,700 are currently being held in detention centers in Libya and urgently need to be transferred to safety. Under the agreement, refugees and asylum-seekers currently being held in Libya will be transferred to Rwanda on a “voluntary” basis. Evacuees will then either be resettled to third countries, be returned to countries where asylum had previously been granted, be returned to their home countries if it is safe to do so, or be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

North Africa

Libya: did Haftar bomb migrant detention center?

The UN is calling for an urgent investigation into the “outrageous” bombing of a migrant detention center at Tajoura, outside Libya’s capital Tripoli, which left at least 44 dead. Libya’s UN-recognized government issued a statement blaming the air-strike on warlord Khalifa Haftar, who has for months been besieging Tripoli. Already believed to be supported by France and Russia, he has now also apparently established contact with Washington. The White House admitted in April that President Trump had spoken by phone with Haftar and discussed “ongoing counter-terrorism efforts.”  (Photo via Libya Observer)

North Africa

Algeria: Berber protesters defy flag ban

For the past two weeks, thousands of protesters across Algeria have defied attempts by the security forces to seize Amazigh (Berber) flags after army chief Ahmed Gaïd Salah declared that only the national flag would be permitted in the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations. Police used tasers against protesters in the capital Algiers June 30, and made numerous arrests. Among those arrested for wearing a t-shirt with the Amazigh national symbol was 25-year old Samira Messouci, an elected member of the People’s Assembly (regional parliament) in Tizi Ouzou wilaya (province). The Assembly has issued a statement demanding his release. (Photo of protest at Algerian embassy in London via MENA Solidarity Network)

North Africa

France backing Haftar bid to rule Libya?

Libya’s weak UN-backed government is bracing for an offensive on Tripoli by the country’s strong eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, generally referred to as a “renegade general.” Haftar ordered his forces amassed on the outskirts to advance on Tripoli and “conquer” it whether by peaceful means or force. Militias loyal to the “official” government are scrambling to erect defenses. This comes weeks after hundreds of Chadian rebel fighters were expelled from southern Libya by Hafter’s forces, and reportedly surrendered to Chad’s French-backed military. Already backed by Russia, Haftar now appears to be making a bid for French support as the man who can bring stability to Libya.

North Africa

Algeria’s victory: Arab Revolution reawakens?

Algerians flooded into the streets in celebration as long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his resignation following weeks of protests across the country. The ailing Bouteflika clearly stepped down to avoid being deposed by military. Hours before his announcement, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, commander of the National Popular Army, called for “immediate” application of Article 102 of the constitution, which calls for the removal of a president who is too incapacitated to serve. The resignation also came four days after some million protesters filled the streets of Algiers for a “Friday of the Seadfastness”—the sixth consecutive Friday of demonstrations calling for an end to Bouteflika’s rule. But a popular chant at the protests was “We want the implementation of Article 7″—which stipulates that “the people are the source of all power.” The movement is demanding an end to the entrenched military-dominated regime altogether.

North Africa

UN reports abuses of migrants in Libya

A report by the UN High Commissioner on Libya described the ill-treatment of migrants and refugees in the North African country, including rape and torture by smugglers, traffickers, Libyan officials and armed groups. Migrants and refugees freed from detention in Libya testified about the extortion technique whereby the perpetrators force them to call their families, who will hear the screams until they pay a ransom. Migrants from Africa pass through Libya to reach European countries, who work with the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrant ships at sea. The report urged European Union member states to reconsider aid to the Libyan Coast Guard, and to end the restriction on migrant rescue operations by nonprofit organizations. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

North Africa

Lavalin-Libya sleaze at issue in Trudeau turpitude

Canadian opposition parties are crying foul after an investigation into the corruption scandal rocking the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was shut down by a parliamentary committee dominated by his ruling Liberals. The affair concerns Quebec-based construction giant SNC-Lavalin’s apparent attempts to secure leniency from the Trudeau government in various criminal investigations it faces. Obstruction of justice charges were stayed earlier this year against Lavalin executive Sami Bebawi, on the ostensible basis that too much time had elapsed since the offense under investigation—which involved alleged bribes to the Moammar Qaddafi regime to secure construction contracts in Libya in 2011. The company is best known within Canada for controversial mega-projects under contruction from British Columbia to Labrador. (Photo: BC Hydro via Journal of Commerice)

North Africa

Algerian protesters claim partial victory

Following weeks of mass protests across Algeria, long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he will not run for a fifth term—but also said elections that were set for April will be postponed, with no new date set for the polls. There has also been a government shake-up, with the prime minister stepping down. But protesters vow to keep the pressure, demanding that Bouteflika cede power immediately, and, increasingly, that his entire government resign. The protests are on a scale unprecedented since the 1990s when a military coup aborted a democratic process, precipitating a civil war. Algeria's army chief invoked this period in a stern warning to the protesters. "There are some parties who want Algeria to return to the era of extreme pain," Lt. Gen. Gaed Salah said. (Photo via Albawaba)

North Africa

Arab Revolution back on in Sudan, Algeria

Tens of thousands of Algerians took to the streets to oppose plans by long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to seek a fifth term in office. Police fired tear-gas at protesters in Algiers, and more than 50 officers were reported injured, with at least 45 people arrested. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has meanwhile declared a national state of emergency in response to ongoing protests across the country. Last week he dismissed his entire government and sacked all state governors, replacing them with high officials of the security forces. But protesters have continued to take to the streets and clash with police, in defiance of the state of emergency. (Photo via Sudan Tribune)