Libya IDP Figures Analysis

IDMC estimates that there were at least 434,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Libya as of earlier July 2015.


IDMC bases its figures on estimates and information provided by the UN, including OCHA, UNHCR and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), as well as IOM, IFRC, and local authorities.

IDMC’s figures compile IDP caseloads from different waves of displacement:

  • In the West, at least 269,000 people have been displaced since mid-July 2014, most of them have sought refuge around the capital city of Tripoli (IMDC interview with UNHCR, 9 september 2014, UNHCR, 16th January 2015).

  • In the East, UNHCR reported that at least 105,000 IDPs had sought refuge in Benghazi city while at least 90,000 people have been displaced from Benghazi but also from Derna and Tobruk since mid-May 2014 (UNHCR, 30 June 2015). Given the limited access to the area, this number should be considered as under-estimated (UNSMIL / OHCHR 23 december 2014).

  • In the South, at least 18,500 people have been displaced by the recent fighting in Awbari as of January 2015. The 4,800 protracted IDPs that were unable to return to their homes since the clashes of January 2014, may be re-displaced during the recent fighting and could already be counted in the previous number (IDMC interview with UNHCR, 9 September 2014,UNHCR, 16th January 2015).

  • At least 56,544 IDPs still displaced from the 2011 armed conflict (OCHA, 28 February 2014; IDMC interview with OCHA, 8 September 2014). Most of them have been re-displaced since mid-may 2014 in the western and eastern region, and should be therefore, counted in the previous numbers.

Comprehensive data on internal displacement is hard to come by as most international organisations left the country in mid-July 2014 due to the deteriorating security situation. They were either temporarily operating out of Tunisia or have entirely suspended their operations. Data collection is further complicated by the weakness of local authorities and concerns that, against a highly politicized background. In addition, these figures may include groups that have faced multiple displacement which could have led to double counting, thus overall the figures may be biased and are indicative rather than reliable data. For instance, the Humanitarian Implementation Plan of the 7 May 2015, reported that the Libyan Red Crescent Society estimated that there were over 500,000 IDPs (HIP, 07 May 2015).

Displacement in 2014

Eastern and western Libya

According to information provided by UNHCR, 400,000 people were displaced as of 16 January 2015 by fighting between various armed groups that started in Benghazi in mid-May and in Tripoli in mid-July (IDMC interview with UNHCR, 9 September 2014; UNHCR, 14 November 2014, 16 January 2015). According to UNHCR and UNSMIL, 15,000 families (so approximatively 90,000 people) were displaced within eastern Libya, mostly from Benghazi but also from Derna and Tobruk (UNSMIL / OHCHR 23 december 2014, UNHCR 16 January 2015), while 269,048 IDPs sought refuge in the country’s western region (IDMC interview, 9 September 2014, OCHA Humanitarian appeal 2014). The figure of 269,048 includes around 120,000 IDPs displaced by recent fighting in the Warshefana region south-west of Tripoli and 38,640 IDPs by fighting in Kikla and al Qalaa, located in the Nafusa Mountains (UNSMIL / OHCHR 24 December 2014, UNHCR 14 November 2014). For the western part of Libya as well as for Benghazi, UNHCR relied on figures reported by local councils, whereas figures for eastern Libya took into account information provided by IFRC which was based on the number of IDPs receiving assistance (IDMC interview, 9 September 2014).

The majority of IDPs were staying in urban environments, either hosted by relatives and local communities or sheltering in public buildings (OCHA, 3 September 2014). IDPs fleeing fighting in Tripoli principally fled westwards to the towns of al-Zawiya, Ajaylat, Gharyan and Yafran, while fewer people fled to the east, mainly to Tarhunah, Bani Walid, Misrata, Zlitan and al-Khums (OCHA, 25 August 2014; IDMC interview, 9 September 2014, UNSMIL / OHCHR 23 December 2014). Information on the location of those displaced from Warshefana remained limited as of 9 October (Libya Humanitarian Appeal, 9 October 2014). According to UNHCR, the number of IDPs within Tripoli city itself is difficult to estimate as the Local Council only provided IDP figures for towns in Tripoli’s vicinity, not for the city itself (IDMC interview, 11 September 2014). UNHCR estimates around 83,200 IDPs who currently live near the city (UNHCR 16 January 2015).

As fighting in Benghazi escalated in mid-October, in the context of Operation Dignity, the Benghazi Crisis Committee reported that over 15,000 families, that is to say approximatively 90,000 people were displaced from the city as of 4 December (UNSMIL / OHCHR, 23 december 2014). Previous report mentioned that Benghazi hosted 33,650 IDPs as of 9 September 2014 (IDMC Interviews 9 & 11 September 2014), we could estimated that the recent events have displaced 56 350 more people from Benghazi (including 9,600 Tawergans re-displaced),  but as access to the eastern part of Libya, and in particular to Benghazi, is severely restricted, the total figure of IDPS in this part of the country is likely to be considerably higher. Other eastern towns with significant IDP populations include Ajdabya and Albayda (OCHA, 25 August 2014).

Southern Libya

In January 2014, armed clashes between the Tebu and Awlad Suleiman tribes in and around the southern city of Sebha caused the displacement of approximately 21,000 people (OCHA, 30 April 2014). According to UNHCR, the majority of those displaced belonged to the Tebu tribe. While most of the displaced returned home after a truce was called in February-March 2014, unconfirmed reports suggest that approximately 4,800 people continue to be displaced (IDMC interview, 9 September 2014). Regarding the southern town of Awbari, recent fighting between the Tebu and Tuareg groups since October 2014 have displaced approximatively 18,500 persons (UNHCR 16 January 2015, UNSMIL / OHCHR 23 December 2014). An estimated 1,600 Tuaregs were displaced to nearby Dirj. Some of these families have congregated in schools and empty houses in Sabha, Ghat, Murzuq and Jufra.

Tribal tensions and sporadic fighting in areas such as Ghadamis, Kufra, the southest region of the Nafusa mountains and Sabha have resulted in recent displacement of more than 25,000 persons, albeit mostly of a short-term and temporary nature. Data has remained scant and unverifiable, as access to the south has been severely limited.

Protracted IDPs from the 2011 armed conflict

As of 8 September 2014, at least 56,544 people have been in protracted displacement since the 2011 conflict that ended Muammar al-Gaddafi's 41-year rule (OCHA, 28 February 2014; IDMC interview, 8 September 2014). According to UNHCR, this figure includes approximately 40,000 Tawerghan IDPs, the majority of whom were staying in Tripoli or Benghazi. It also includes approximately 9,200 IDPs from the Mashashya, Qawalish and Sian tribes who remained displaced in the Nafusa Mountains (IDMC interviews, 9 and 19 September 2014). Those who fled Tripoli and the nearby town of Shgeiga, continue to live in dire condition in schools, unfinished administrative buildings and metal hangars, which they have been squatting since October 2011. Members of these communities have been accused of being supporters of the Qaddafi regime by armed groups and have been victims of retaliatory attacks. Against the background of a lack of national reconciliation, these reprisals, along with the extensive destruction of housing and infrastructure, have been preventing their return home or their achievement of durable solutions in host communities. More than two years after their displacement, they lack access to running water, heating, or proper ventilation. They say that they have not received any governmental help. A group of 56 families in Sidi Salim camp has been living under the threat of forced eviction for months after the owner of the land where they had settled in late 2011 started procedures to take back his property.

As most of those protracted IDPs were living in or around Tripoli and Benghazi, many of them have been affected by the latest fighting and were displaced again (IDMC interviews, 9 and 11 September; IOM, 24 August 2014). The situation of some 2,500 Tawerghans who fled their camp in Benghazi in mid-October, and of approximatively 7,100 others Tawerghans who have been re-displaced from five other camps in Benghazi (Guaryouness, al Halies, Sidi Faraj, Electricity Institute and the Al bom al Som “Deaf School”) have been concerning. They continue to be temporarily residing in schools and are now staying in parks, schools, and parkings lots in Ajdabiya and neighbouring towns. Some of them managed to rent homes, other lives with only thin plastic sheets and some tents for cover (UNHCR, 14 November 2014, UNSMIL / OHCHR 23 december 2014).

IDMC uses only the most credible accurate information available. Notwithstanding the caveats and limitations of the source information described above, IDMC believes this to be the best data and is grateful to the partners for sharing it.