Families displaced by fighting in Tripoli forced to live on the street

This woman, who was displaced by the civil war in Libya, now lives in an unfinished building in Tripoli. (Photos posted on Facebook)
This woman, who was displaced by the civil war in Libya, now lives in an unfinished building in Tripoli. (Photos posted on Facebook)

The cold winter months have made life even more difficult for the tens of thousands of Libyans displaced by the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) offensive on the Tripoli government. Nearly 146,000 people have been forced to leave their homes since the offensive began.

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the self-proclaimed head of the Benghazi-based LNA, led the military action to conquer Tripoli, which is the seat of Libya's internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

The fighting south of Tripoli worsened after the GNA signed an agreement with Turkey on November 27 that promised additional Turkish military support for the GNA’s troops. On January 2, the Turkish Parliament approved a military deployment to Libya. All of this will likely cause more people to be displaced.

As the war drags on, high demand has caused the price of rent to skyrocket, making many homes unaffordable for  displaced families. Some have squeezed in with relatives, but many more are sleeping rough.

People have used social media to call for help for displaced families needing somewhere to live.

This photo, posted on Facebook, shows a family sleeping on the street in the centre of Tripoli.

"Some people are forced to sleep in their cars”

Wided Ben Aoun, 35, was displaced from her home in the town of Ain Zara south of Tripoli. She is now an activist with the Libyan Economic Organisation for the Rights of Displaced People (in French, l’Organisation économique libyenne pour les droits des déplacés). She lives in Tripoli. She says local authorities have shown little interest in what happens to the affected families.

I left my home with my family in early April. My activism has allowed me to see up close how much displaced families are suffering. We have been abandoned. Most of the families, like mine, don’t have the money to rent an apartment at 1,300 Libyan dinars (equivalent to 830 euros) a month. Other people can’t find a place to rent because all the places have all already been taken and they are forced to sleep in their cars, in the hallways of hospitals or even in the street. It’s shameful that children, women, the elderly, people with disabilities and illnesses have spent nine months in these conditions.

This Facebook post asks people to help the displaced families sleeping in a bus station in the Triq Elmatar neighbourhood in Tripoli.

Activists posted dozens of photos of displaced families in an attempt to rally Tripoli residents to help.

This tweet describes the terrible living conditions endured by displaced people in Tripoli.

"Water is leaking through the roof"

Najiah, a 58-year-old widow and the mother of seven children, fled her home in Essedra, located to the south of the Libyan capital, when the fighting started nine months ago. She left everything behind and moved into a studio with a leaky roof in Tajoura, which is located to the west of Tripoli.

Thank god, we were at least able to save ourselves. I wasn’t able to save anything from my home. We live in extremely difficult conditions. Some of my children have asthma and they suffer in the damp conditions. The roof leaks. We live far from Tripoli [18 kilometres] and we don’t have a car to get around.

Photo by our Observer.

"I sleep scared that the roof will cave in”

Amani, 43, and her 15-year-old son fled their home in Ain Zara (a suburb south of the Libyan capital) in April. They were able to rent a home thanks to the support of a charity. However, she says the home is in such poor condition that she’s afraid that the roof will cave in.

I left my home two days after the war started. We stayed with friends for a few weeks but, soon, there were 20 of us crammed into one apartment. A charity helped my son and I rent a house. However, one night, a piece of the roof fell on us. I’ve seen cracks in the ceiling and I sleep every night with the fear that the roof will cave in.

Photo provided by our Observer.

Tripoli authorities fear that there will be another wave of displaced people who arrive in the coming days as fighting has intensified to the south of the city. Mohamed Fadhel Jobrane, president of the city-run Committee for the Return of Displaced People (in French, le Comité de retour des déplacés), told the FRANCE 24 Observers that they are out of resources.

The 120 million Libyan dinars [equivalent to 76.6 million euros] that the government allocated to help displaced people was already spent on food aid and shelter. We have no more resources to help displaced people. In the last few weeks alone, the number of displaced families rose from 24,000 to 28,000.

When the budget was drawn up, we thought the conflict would last two or three months but we have now entered the ninth month of the siege. The fighting has now reached the Machrou Hadhba and Wadi Rabie neighbourhoods and families from those areas are now streaming into the city. There are hundreds of families sleeping in their cars.

In December 2019, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced that 900,000 people in Libya were in need of humanitarian assistance. The Libyan Red Cross has worked to provide food and medical aid to the displaced people since the start of the war. Red Cross volunteers have handed out 6,000 bags of clothing and 6,820 food rations.

Volunteers for the Libyan Red Cross hand out aid to displaced people living in a school in Tripoli.

The fighting has spread to the overcrowded neighbourhoods of Abou Salim, Al-Hadhba and Salahedinne (all located to the south of Tripoli). There are more than 180,000 people living in these communities. The country is on the brink of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Some people from these areas have already started leaving their homes to join the tens of thousands of displaced people in the Libyan capital.

Article by Omar Tiss.