Tuareg Refugee Camp Faces Harsh Winter

By Jamal Adel
Tripoli, 10 December 2013

Hundreds of Tuareg refugees from Ghadames are facing dire conditions in a camp in the Awal Valley having been forced from their homes in the town two years ago, according to a civil rights activist.

There are currently some 700 Tuareg refugees facing their second winter in the Awal Valley, 50 kilometres east of Ghadames. The community, seen to have supported the Qaddafi regime during the revolution, fled the southern town shortly afterwards after reprisals by the Arab majority.  It is estimated by the UNHCR that at least 2,500 Tuareg were forced flee in 2011.

According to Abdallah Ali Al-Shareef, a Tuareg civil rights activist, conditions on the ground in Awal Valley have reached a “critical humanitarian situation”. He adds that “in the coming winter we are concerned that problems will worsen”.

Attempts by the authorities to negotiate a Tuareg return to Ghadames have been successfully resisted by the Arab community.

Shareef says that many Tuaregs have faced significant challenges when they turn to the government for help. Many are not formally registered as Libyan citizens, thus making it easier for them to be characterised as Algerian or Malian nomads. “We have written hundreds of letters to the authorities asking them to see the suffering,” Shareef said, “so far we have seen nothing”.

Belal Abdul-Wahab, who lives at the camp, says that indifference from the authorities has been a bitter pill to swallow. He says that he faced real oppression in Ghadames and saw his community’s homes and farms burnt, their possessions stolen. “Worse than that ,though, is that the government has stood aside,” he claimed.