As migrants continue to die in their desperate attempt to leave war ravaged Libya on rickety boats across the Mediterranean, Pope Francis appealed to the international community in his latest Sunday address, to help migrants stuck in the North African country and bring an end to the fighting there.
In his weekly address to the faithful, from his balcony in St Peter’s square, Pope Francis called upon the international community to help migrants who are stuck in war-torn Libya. According to the news agency Associated Press (AP), he said the international community should take “to heart” the plight of migrants in Libya.
“There is cruelty. We all have responsibility, no one can feel exempt,” said the Pope according to AP. He highlighted just how vulnerable migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced people are to abuse and “forms of exploitation and violence.”
The Pontiff said he hoped for an “end to the violence” in Libya and urged all parties towards a “path of peace stability and unity.”
Fighting and turmoil
The leader of the Catholic Church’s comments come as forces loyal to the UN-backed government in Tripoli have been making gains against forces fighting for General Haftar who has been challenging the Tripoli administration and controls major oil fields.
Libya has been in disarray since 2011 when civil war and international air strikes toppled former leader President Muamar Gadaffi who had been in power since the late sixties. Gadaffi was killed in 2011 during the turmoil.
The latest offensive to rock the country was launched by General Haftar in April 2019. As fighting has progressed, migrants in the country have been affected too. Detention centres and camps housing migrants have been bombed and those who had left the centres and were living in Libya’s towns have found it difficult to find work. Some have even been recruited to fight in the civil war.
‘In need of humanitarian assistance’
Because of the fighting, international organisations like the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have declared Libya an unsafe place. In March 2020, the IOM estimated that over 492,000 migrants and internally displaced people (IDPs) were in need of humanitarian assistance.
Since the beginning of the latest fighting in April 2019, the IOM estimate that migrants in Libya number around 654,081 and that at least 355,000 individuals have been internally displaced within the country.
According to the IOM, the restrictions placed on Libya by the COVID-19 pandemic has just made things worse for migrants and residents. The UN agency has provided core relief items to just under 19,000 IDPs since the beginning of 2020.