Libya: Treatment of members of the Zintani tribe in Tobruk City; presence of Gaddafi supporters in Tobruk; presence and operational strength of the organization of Islamic State (IS) in Tobruk; ability of Libyans fleeing conflict in other parts of the country to relocate to Tobruk and reside there safely; whether Tobruk airport is operational (2014-August 2016) [LBY105631.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Treatment of Zintani Tribe Members in Tobruk City

The Zintani tribe is mainly located in the western town of Zintan (CNN 4 Mar. 2011; ISW Nov. 2011, 14), which has a population of about 25,000 (ibid.). A CNN article describes the tribe as "influential" and reports that it was "allied in the past to Gadhafi's own tribe" before joining the opposition (4 Mar. 2011). In 2011, the city of Zintan was referred to in a Spiegel Online article as “the center of the rebellion” against Gadhafi in the West (Spiegel Online 26 July 2011).

Information on the presence and treatment of members of the Zintani tribe in Tobruk City could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Presence of Gaddafi Supporters in Tobruk

Sources report that there are two distinct governments claiming legitimacy in Libya; one government is based in Tripoli (General National Congress, GNC), and the other, the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HoR), is based in Tobruk (UN Oct. 2015, 3-4; Freedom House 2016). In 2014, the GNC and HoR split into "rival political and military camps" (ibid.). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a senior analyst for Libya at the International Crisis Group who travels to Libya for meetings with people from different political and military coalitions, including in the East and specifically Tobruk, and who provided the information in her personal capacity in that role, stated that

Tobruk is currently under the control of a military faction headed by [General] Khalifa Haftar and it has ties to supporters of the former Gaddafi regime. Several high level members of the old regime have returned to Tobruk over the past months and they dominate both the political and military scene in Tobruk. (Senior Analyst 16 Sept. 2016)

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of CESVI, a humanitarian aid and development organization active since 2011 in Libya, including Eastern Libya [1], explained that in the Gaddafi regime, aspects of state participation were drawn from tribal relationships and most were descended from the main tribes in Libya of Ghadafi, Werfalla, Wershefana (from the West) and Barasi, Aubidat [Obeidat], Magharba, Awagir, and Dresaa (from the East) (CESVI 14 Sept. 2016). Furthermore, the source explained, without providing details, that after 2014, Tobruk's government took initiatives on the possibility of return of former Gaddafi figures (ibid.). Tobruk became the first city to receive displaced returnees and the local community has welcomed the return of some of these tribal communities from all regions of Libya, some of whom are employed in the parliament and government, noting that "each class live according to their economic situation and what links them is suppor[t] of the former regime" (ibid.). Further information on the presence of Gaddafi supporters in Tobruk could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Presence and Strength of Daesh in Tobruk City

The CESVI representative indicated that, according to that organization's knowledge, "[t]he Islamic State does not have any public activity in Tobruk" (14 Sept. 2016). Based on information available to the Senior Analyst, the source stated that she did not believe that there was "any substantial presence of IS in and around Tobruk;" the source noted, however, that there was a substantial IS presence in nearby Derna, about 150 kilometres from Tobruk, until a few months ago (16 Sept. 2016). An article by the Libyan Gazette reports on claims by Derna’s local authorities that Daesh was driven out of the city in April 2016 (22 June 2016).

4. Instances and Ability of Libyans Fleeing the Conflict to Relocate to Tobruk, Including Zintani Tribe Members

A January 2016 tracking report on internal displacement in Libya produced by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) states that there are in excess of 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Libya (IOM Jan. 2016, 2); however, the August 2016 edition of the same report states that IDPs had decreased to 348,372 (ibid. Aug. 2016, 4). The same source states that in January 2016 the top five areas where people were displaced from were: Benghazi (35.5 percent), Tawergha (12.7 percent), Derna (10.5 percent), Sirte (9.6 percent) and Awbari (7.4 percent) (ibid. Jan. 2016, 4). In August 2016, the main three areas of origin for IDPs were Tawergha, Sirte and Benghazi (ibid. Aug. 2016, 6).

In January 2016, the areas of residence which hosted the largest number of IDPs in Libya included Tobruk, which hosts 6.4 percent of IDPs tracked by IOM, or about 17,205 individuals (ibid. Jan. 2016, 4). According to the same report, IDP movement into Tobruk was principally from Derna (ibid., 5). By August 2016, Benghazi, Bani Waled, Ajdabiya, Abu Salim, Al Bayda, Alzintan and Tarhuna were the main areas of residence for IDPs and the number of displaced persons had decreased to 11,530 individuals being hosted in Tobruk (ibid. Aug. 2016, 7). The Senior Analyst explained that

[m]any people who have fled the Islamist-dominated areas of Libya (including Tripoli) or war[-affected] areas have found refuge in Tobruk over the past few years [because] it was considered a peaceful city, with no ongoing military clashes. Generally speaking, it is easier for somebody with family or tribal ties with people in Tobruk to [relocate there], so these tend to be people who are originally from Eastern Libya with ties to the dominant tribe there, which is the Obeidat. (16 Sept. 2016)

The CESVI representative provided the view that Tobruk is "safe to a certain extent" and not affected by security issues of tribal origin, stating that the security situation of IDPs in Tobruk is not different from the rest of the city's inhabitants (CESVI 14 Sept. 2016). According to the IOM, in regards to the general situation of IDPs surveyed in Libya, 84 percent of IDP households reside in private accommodation or are hosted by relatives or non-relatives, while 16 percent live in "informal or collective settings" (IOM Aug. 2016, 10). Further and corroborating information specific to IDPs in Tobruk could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. A map of Libya, produced by the IOM, showing major displacement patterns of IDP from areas of origin to areas of current residence since 2011, representing about 80 percent of the displaced population in Libya (IOM Jan. 2016, 5), is attached to this Response.

Information on instances of Zintani tribe members who have relocated to Tobruk could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. The Senior Analyst gave the view that, although she did not know of any instances of Zintani living in Tobruk,

[m]embers of the Zintani community support the military coalition headed by [General] Haftar, which is very strong in Tobruk … [and which] include many members of the security forces once active under Qaddafi. (16 Sept. 2016)

An article by the Libyan Gazette states that the Zintan brigades are "loyal to the HoR and its militia led by Haftar" (26 May 2016). Another article by the Libyan Gazette explains that Haftar "gained the support of the Zintan brigades in west, who shared his anti-Islamist cause" and that "[t]he majority of those who supported him felt threatened by the rise of Islamist forces who sought to extinguish any leftover traces of Gaddafi’s old regime" (ibid. 22 June 2016). For further information on the Zintan brigades, including areas of operation, relationship with the government and involvement in human rights abuses, see Response to Information Request LBY104472 of June 2013.

The Senior Analyst gave the opinion that "Tobruk would be considered a relatively safe place for Zintanis to live given the current network of alliances and given the military landscape" (16 Sept. 2016). However, in 2014, Human Rights Watch wrote that "[t]here is a lack of access to information inside of Libya that would allow for a meaningful individualized risk assessment" and takes the position that "anyone forcibly returned to any part of Libya would be exposed to a real risk of serious harm" (Human Rights Watch 5 Dec. 2014). The UNHCR's position on returns to Libya, published in October 2015, states the following:

UNHCR urges all States to suspend forcible returns to Libya, including Tripoli, until the security and human rights situation has improved considerably. Given the volatility of the situation, the fragmentation of control and the plethora of armed groups, UNHCR considers that, in the current circumstances, the relevance and reasonableness criteria for an internal flight or relocation alternative are unlikely to be met. (UN Oct. 2015, 14)

Further information on the ability of Libyans fleeing conflict to relocate to Tobruk could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

5. Tobruk Airport

In 9 September 2016 correspondence with the Research Directorate, a regional manager for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) [2] stated that, according to the organization's Safety Division, there are only two flights per day to Tobruk, which both fly from Tripoli (IATA 9 Sept. 2016). The same source also indicated that there are no international overflights permitted and there are "no active [notices to airmen, NOTAMs]" for Tobruk airport at the time of the correspondence (ibid.). The source defined a NOTAM as a "notice alerting pilots of potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the safety of the flight" (ibid.). The IATA Regional Manager also noted that the status of the Tobruk airport is subject to change due to country circumstances (ibid. 3 Oct. 2016). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] CESVI and has provided assistance such as funding and psychological assistance, civil society strengthening, and facilitation of immigrant registration with the UNHCR (CESVI 14 Sept. 2016). The organization has offices and centres in two major Libyan cities and has joint projects with UNICEF, UNHCR, and the Swiss Government (ibid.). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative provided information based on interviews with people living in Tobruk and CESVI experience in Eastern Libya (ibid.).

[2] IATA is “the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 265 airlines or 83% of total air traffic. [IATA] support[s] many areas of aviation activity and help[s] formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues” (IATA n.d.).

References

Cable News Network (CNN). 4 March 2011. Moni Basu. “Libya’s Tribes Rise Up Against Gadhafi.” [Accessed 28 Sept. 2016]

CESVI. 14 September 2016. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

Freedom House. 2016. “Libya.” Freedom in the World 2016. [Accessed 25 Sept. 2016]

Human Rights Watch. 5 December 2014. “Libya: Countries Should Suspend Forcible Returns.” [Accessed 25 Sept. 2016]

Institute for the Study of War (ISW). November 2011. Anthony Bell, Spencer Butts and David Witter. The Libyan Revolution: The Tide Turns (Part 4). [Accessed 28 Sept. 2016]

International Air Transport Association (IATA). 3 October 2016. Correspondence from a regional manager for the Middle East and North Africa regions to the Research Directorate.

International Air Transport Association (IATA). 9 September 2016. Correspondence from a regional manager for the Middle East and North Africa regions to the Research Directorate.

International Air Transport Association (IATA). N.d. “About Us.” [Accessed 24 Sept. 2016]

International Organization for Migration (IOM). August 2016. Displacement Tracking Matrix – DTM Round 5 – Libya. [Accessed 30 Sept. 2016]

International Organization for Migration (IOM). January 2016. Displacement Tracking Matrix – DTM Round 1 – Libya. [Accessed 25 Sept. 2016]

Libyan Gazette. 22 June 2016. “General Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan National Army.” [Accessed 25 Sept. 2016]

Libyan Gazette. 26 May 2016. “Haftar Diverting Libyan Army’s Focus Away from ISIS.” [Accessed 25 Sept. 2016]

Senior Analyst, International Crisis Group. 16 September 2016. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Spiegel Online. 26 July 2011. Mathieu von Rohr. “Settling Old Scores: Tribal Rivalries Complicate Libyan War.” [Accessed 29 Sept. 2016]

United Nations (UN). October 2015. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR Position on Returns to Libya – Update I. [Accessed 25 Sept. 2016]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: African Airlines Association; African Civil Aviation Commission; Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development; Danish Refugee Council; Human Rights Watch; Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre; International Organization for Migration; Lawyers for Justice in Libya; Libya – Civil Aviation Authority, Embassies of Libya in Ottawa, Washington; Libyan League for Human Rights; UN – UNHCR; World Organization Against Torture.

Internet sites, including: Al Jazeera; Al-Monitor; Amnesty International; BBC; ecoi.net; European Council on Foreign Relations; Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre; International Organization for Migration; Jamestown Foundation; Libya Herald; Libya Observer; UN – Refworld, ReliefWeb; US – Department of State.

Attachment

International Organization for Migration (IOM). January 2016. “IDP Movement from Areas of Origin to Areas of Current Residence.” Displacement Tracking Matrix – DTM Round 1 – Libya. [Accessed 25 Sept. 2016]