Inter-ethnic violence in Libya escalates – the refugee issue remains unresolved

The EU Foreign Ministers Council ignores the dramatic situation in Libya (January 20):

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) criticizes that the European Union shows lack of interest regarding the escalating violence and the lawlessness in Libya. "Almost three years after several European countries started a military intervention against the Gaddafi regime in Libya, the country is now drowning in violence. However, Europe chose to look the other way," said the STP's Africa-consultant, Ulrich Delius, on Monday – on occasion of the EU Foreign Ministers Council in Brussels. "What else must happen in Libya before the foreign ministers of the EU try to tackle the dramatic situation? Europe is partly responsibility for the disastrous safety situation. If you decide to overthrow a dictatorial regime, you must also be prepared to help to build up democratic structures."

The situation in southern Libya is especially alarming. The tensions between the Arabic and the African ethnic groups are increasing. During the last five days, 31 people were killed and 65 were injured in inter-ethnic clashes between the African Toubou and Arabic clan members in the city of Sebha. Since the fall of dictator Gaddafi, several hundred people got killed in violent clashes between Toubou and Arabs in the city, which has about 90,000 inhabitants. So far all efforts for mediation have failed. Also, due to two politically motivated killings last week, the tensions between the Toubou and Arabic Zwai in the city of Kufra have increased significantly. The Toubou are calling for a better representation of their population group in the country's political bodies and demand more help for their underdeveloped regions – which would be the only possible way to try and stop the smuggling of goods, drugs and people, which many or the residents of southern Libya are entangled in.

35,000 traumatized refugees from Tawergha have been waiting more than 1000days to be able to return to their hometowns since the beginning of the military intervention on March 19, 2011. Although the affected people and human rights organizations have sent several appeals, the authorities are still trying to keep the city's African residents from returning to the city they were forced to leave in August 2011 after an attack by militias from the neighboring Arab city of Misrata. The Libyan government founded a commission to take care of the repatriation of all Libyan refugees – but the chairman of the commission is from the neighboring enemy city of Misrata, so the commission continues to ignore the Tawergha refugees. "It is a crime against humanity that the refugees from Tawergha are being suppressed because of the color of their skin and that the Arab majority discriminates them on racial grounds," said Delius.