On 26 August 2018, clashes broke out between rival armed groups in southern Tripoli, particularly in Salaheddin, Ain Zara, Mashroua Al Hadhba, and points south.
These clashes quickly escalated and spread throughout Tripoli, with active fighting throughout the southern mahallas and shells falling on wide swaths of the city.
Three weeks later, despite a period of relative calm following a ceasefire brokered on 4 September, fighting and shelling continued, and the situation remained tense.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), at least 3,845 Libyan households and an unknown number of migrants remained displaced by the fighting as of 18 September.
To inform humanitarian response plans, members of the Libya Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) conducted a joint rapid assessment to provide a snapshot of the needs of displaced Libyan and migrant populations in the city of Tripoli.
Between 11 and 16 September, participating partners, including Cesvi, DRC, IOM, REACH, and WFP, assessed the humanitarian situation in 26 mahallas across all 6 Tripoli baladiyas, as well as in 5 Tawerghan IDP camps.
Data was collected through 106 multi-sector key informant (KI) interviews, 62 concerning Libyan IDPs and 44 concerning migrants, conducted with community leaders, NGO staff, municipal authorities and others.
The information in this document refers only to the situation during the data collection period and should be considered indicative only.
• The largest proportion of the 3,845 recently displaced Libyan households reportedly came from conflict-affected areas of Ain Zara, with the next largest proportions coming from Mashroua Al Hadhba and Salaheddin.
According to IOM, roughly half of these households traveled to other cities to the south and east, while at least 1,950 households were displaced within the city of Tripoli.
• The closure of the Salaheddin, Ain Zara, and Tariq Al Matar detention centres due to conflict led to large groups of refugees and migrants being displaced within the area. Some were transferred to new detention centres, while others departed for different areas of the city.
• Smaller groups of urban migrants were also displaced by the clashes, but reportedly remained within Tripoli for the most part, making their way to safer baladiyas such as Suq Aljumaa, Tripoli Centre, and other parts of Hai Alandalus.
• IDPs in all but a handful of assessed displacement sites were able to move freely. Refugees and migrants had much less freedom of movement.
• In nearly every assessed mahalla, an estimated 75-100% of IDPs who had arrived since 26 August were being hosted by friends and family. Recently arrived urban migrants, meanwhile, were reliant on a combination of rental and hosting.
• Recent damage to the water network was reported in all assessed baladiyas. Disruptions to the electrical grid had also become much more frequent.
• KIs reported an increase in robberies, killings, and other types of crime in conflict-affected mahallas as a direct consequence of insecurity, raising concerns about residents’ safety.
• Public and private health facilities, as well as pharmacies, had closed due to insecurity throughout the area of heaviest conflict, leaving residents with little access to medicines or healthcare. This access was further compromised as relief teams and paramedics in Tripoli were targeted by attacks, with ambulances looted for emergency medical supplies.
• In most parts of Tripoli, IDPs were reported to have consistent access to food. However, the situation in Ain Zara, Mashroua Al Hadhba, and Salaheddin was more precarious. Access to food was also less consistent among refugee and migrant populations.
• All assessed mahallas had functioning markets. However, recently displaced IDPs in some areas were unable to consistently access these markets.
FINDINGS BY SECTOR
Displacement and Intentions
Following the outbreak of clashes on August 26, at least 3,845 Libyan households were displaced from conflict-affected mahallas of southern Tripoli.
The largest numbers of IDP households were reportedly displaced from conflict-affected areas of Ain Zara mahalla, with the mahallas of Mashroua Al Hadhba and Salaheddin not far behind.
Roughly half of these households were displaced to other cities to the south and east, with the largest numbers heading to Bani Waleed, Tarhuna, and Garabolli.
Meanwhile, at least 1,950 households were displaced within the city of Tripoli.
Those from Ain Zara were likely to travel to the city centre or Qasr Bin Ghasher, but those from Mashroua Al Hadhba and Salaheddin generally travelled to Abusliem baladiya, itself a site of heavy clashes suggesting that some of these households may have lacked access to resources that would have enabled them to reach safer areas.
KIs in the mahalla of Al Wadi Al Gharbi also reported sizable displacement since 26 August, with the majority of IDPs moving east to Al Wadi Asharki.
A majority of women and children temporarily left the Tawerghan IDP camp Al Fallah after shelters in the camp were struck by mortar fire in early September. These households and partial households were displaced variously to Azzawya, Espeaa, and elsewhere in Abusliem
Al Janubi. Smaller numbers were displaced from the Al Fallah 1 and Parking Area camps during the same period.
According to official estimates, roughly 30% of the local population in conflict-affected areas had opted to remain in their homes to prevent looting.
Due to the continued instability in Tripoli, KIs disagreed on the intentions of recently displaced IDPs. Most reported that, given the calmer situation in the wake of the September ceasefire, many of the displaced were expected to return to their homes; others stated that IDPs had chosen not to return out of a fear that clashes would start again.
Refugees and Migrants
On 27 August, due to the deteriorating security situation, the detention centres in Salaheddin and Ain Zara were abandoned by staff.
Of the 915 refugees and migrants being held in Ain Zara and the 400 being held in Salaheddin, about two-thirds immediately departed for other areas, including a group of 100 that was transferred from Salaheddin to the detention centre at Tariq Al Matar.
However, a group of about 400 detainees remained in the Ain Zara detention centre for several days afterwards, largely without food or water, until being released or transferred to the detention centres at Tariq Al Matar and Abusliem.
The detention centres at Tariq Al Matar and Abusliem were subsequently closed on September due to the spread of conflict.
Tariq Al Matar’s residents were divided between the detention centres at Janzour, Zintan, and Qasr Bin Ghasher, and an ad hoc facility in Al Krimiya.
Detainees at Abusliem, meanwhile, refused to leave due to a lack of other options, and have effectively begun to manage and supply the detention centre on their own behalf.
Small groups of urban migrants were displaced from the conflict-affected mahallas of Abusliem Al Janubi, Ain Zara, Al Wadi Al Gharbi, and Azzahf Al Akhdhar, as well as from several mahallas of Hai Alandalus baladiya.
These urban migrants reportedly remained within Tripoli for the most part, making their way to safer baladiyas such as Suq Aljumaa, Tripoli Centre, and other parts of Hai Alandalus. Smaller numbers left for nearby cities including Janzour, Azzawya, Garabolli, and Sirt.
In addition to the detainees who were transferred from one detention centre to another, some urban migrants had reportedly returned to detention centres, in particular Tariq Al Sikka.
According to KIs, some of these urban migrants had been forcibly seized from farms outside of Tripoli where they were working.
Across nearly all assessed mahallas, KIs estimated that fewer than 10% of the refugees and migrants displaced since 26 August had already moved on to other locations. However, KIs reported that it was difficult in general to ascertain the movements of refugees and migrants, partly because many sought to remain undetected to avoid detention (see “Freedom of Movement”).
Freedom of Movement
KIs reported that IDPs in all but a handful of assessed displacement sites were able to move freely. The exceptions were in the conflict-affected mahallas of Abusliem Al Janubi, Salaheddin,
Ain Zara, Mashroua Al Hadhba, and Al Wadi Al Gharbi, where many IDPs were sheltering in place due to the risk of ongoing fighting and shelling.
In Salaheddin, Ain Zara, and Mashroua Al Hadhba, the presence of road blockages and checkpoints was also reported; in many cases, armed groups used these to impose restrictions on IDP movement.
The presence of unexploded ordnance (UXO) was reported as a restriction on movement by one KI in Mashroua Al Hadhba.
Refugees and migrants reportedly had much less freedom of movement. While refugee and migrant KIs also reported concern about fighting, shelling, and the presence of checkpoints—the last of which was listed as a restriction both in mahallas affected by conflict and in those that were not—they were primarily worried by the elevated risk of being kidnapped and/or returned to detention centres.
This risk was perceived as ubiquitous in many public spaces, including hospitals, stores, schools, and public transportation.
Refugee and migrant KIs in the baladiya of Tajoura were particularly likely to list detention, verbal and physical harassment, and confiscation of documents as risks associated with entering and exiting their mahallas.
Tripoli’s refugees and migrants often face such threats, but since 26 August, the risk was perceived to have increased.
All operations at Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport were suspended between 1 and 7 September, and again from 12 September onwards, due to armed group activity and shelling in the vicinity of the airport.
During these periods of suspension, all operating flights have been diverted to Misrata, 200 kilometres to the east. At the time of publication, the coastal road to both Misrata and Tunis remained accessible; however, major routes to Qasr Ben Ghasher and points south were blocked by armed group activity.