No home to go back to

As they get back to destroyed homes, Libyan returnees rely on steady cash assistance for basic needs and eventually, have a chance to rebuild their lives.

22.04.20

When the conflict started in 2011, it exacerbated underlying tensions between tribes throughout the country, forcing many Libyans like Hussein* and Salima* from their homes.

They looked for a refuge in the capital and spent almost 8 years there in displacement. But when the war came to the capital Tripoli last year, they had to flee again.

As a peace agreement was signed between tribes in their hometowns, they went back to Al-Awiniyah, in Al-Jabal Al-Gharbi, hoping for safety. What Hussein and Salima found upon their arrival was nothing but ruins:

“Everything here is destroyed. No jobs, no houses, no markets”, Hussein explains. 

“Which future! We don’t have any plans for it.”

Hussein returned to his home after almost 8 years of displacement:

"I came to Tripoli when the conflict started in 2011 in Al-Awiniyah. Due to the conflict, we were forcibly evicted from our hometown, so we had to escape to Tripoli. It was a long and difficult journey. We got settled in Tripoli but war broke out. I was living in an area near the front lines. Once again, we had to flee for safety."

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What he found was a partially destroyed house in a town that had been ravaged by the conflict. Most of the houses in Al Awiniyah were heavily damaged and jobs had become scarce.

Without any goods to trade on the market, many households like Hussein’s now have no choice but to rely on financial support from members of their community. At 56 years of age, with seven children to support, Hussein is out of options:

"I am an old person who is sick. Its’s difficult to work and help my family. Even my sons are unemployed because there are no job opportunities here. We need food, we need household items."

He is one of many who must borrow money and reduce expenses on other essentials such as medication or education in order to feed their family. They have little to no alternatives to survive.

"I cannot provide for my daughter"

Like Hussein, Salima also had to borrow money many times. Since the death of her husband, she has been the sole provider for 9 people: Her daughter and son-in-law, her six grandchildren and an adopted son.

When she returned to her hometown, she found that her house had been destroyed beyond repair, and she had no other housing options. She depends heavily on neighbours for help:

"Sometimes they give us food, other times I have to borrow money from people. I cannot provide for my daughter and her kids’ needs. I am an old woman; I’ve being living with pain in my heart since the loss of my son during the war."

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DRC’s cash assistance 

Salima and Hussein were both entitled to get assistance and DRC selected them in November 2019 to receive cash assistance once a month for 3 months, thanks to the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO).

With the sum they receive, they can buy food for their families without relying on others’ good will. Hussein also bought some medication and school items for his children, and Salima managed to buy some blankets in preparation for the long winter ahead.

But what happens next? Their prospects remain bleak. When asked about his hopes for the future, Hussein’s response was almost indignant:

"Which future! We don’t have any plans for it. I just hope that my house will go back to the way it was before."

Salima feels a similar sense of resignation:

"For us there is no future, we do not know what will happen to us. We just live for the moment.The one thing we dream of is to repair our home somehow."

Durable support needed

Cash assistance remains an urgent priority for Libyan returnees to meet their daily basic needs. This initial life-saving assistance is important as families don’t have a reliable source of income and their country doesn’t provide them with a safety net.

However, the humanitarian community must look into ways of ensuring more durable support so that Libyans who returned to their hometowns can find work and earn a wage.

This will give returnees a chance to rebuild their homes as a first step towards rebuilding their lives. The Danish Refugee Council, present in Libya with offices and teams working across Tripoli, Yefren, Benghazi and Sebha, is committed to make this happen.

* The names have been changes to preserve the identity of the persons.