The Libyan government has ordered the UNHCR office in Libya to halt all activities and to close it office. UNHCR has been working in Libya since 1991 even though Libya is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.
The UNHCR said it was not given a reason for the Libyan decision. Reuters reported that Libya’s Foreign Ministry considers the UNHCR presence within Libya to be illegal since Libya is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention. Reuters also says that JANA, the Libyan news agency, accused a UNHCR official of carrying out an unspecified illegal activity.
The Libyan newspaper Oya and other reports say that the EU is pressuring Libya in the ongoing EU-Libya Partnership Talks to sign the Refugee Convention and that illegal immigration is one of the main areas of disagreement in the current negotiations.
The UNHCR said in a press release “[i]n the absence of a national asylum system, UNHCR has carried out registration and refugee status determination, visiting detention facilities and providing medical and humanitarian assistance to detainees.” Among the asylum seekers detained in Libya over the past year are persons who were forcibly returned to Libya by Italian authorities pursuant to the Italy-Libya migration agreement.
Click here for UNHCR press release.
Click here for Oya article (AR).