Libya: Raising mine awareness and helping internally displaced persons return to their homes

Libya: Raising mine awareness and helping internally displaced persons return to their homes

After the 2011 Revolution, about 40,000 Libyans from the city of Tawergha had to flee they homes and started living in dire conditions in camps spread across the country. In the following years, the return of these people to their homes has become one of the most pressing issues for the international community and Libyans alike. An EU project raises awareness about unexploded ordnances and mines and helps clearing private properties so that they can safely return home.

  1. Deutsch
  2. English

Omar Musa, 34, married with two children, used to work as a taxi driver between his home of Tawergha, famous for its oasis and date palm production, and the city of Misrata. However, in 2011, the rebels gained the upper hand on Gaddafi regime forces and the fighting forced Omar to flee his home alongside the entire population after seeing the city destroyed. Eventually, he found himself living in Sebha, in southern Libya, with many other internally displaces persons from Tawergha.

Although most had hoped for the community to be able to return to their homes, many people in the city of Misrata had also suffered horrific atrocities at the hands of Gaddafi’s regime, many intentionally recruited from Tawergha to inflame communal animosity.

/fpi/file/01_de01

Omar showing the RPG grenade sticking out of one of his palm trees

Omar Musa showing the RPG grenade sticking out of one of his palm trees.

In June 2018 after years of talks, representatives from the two communities signed the reconciliation agreement and agreed to compensate each other for damages while promising to hold accountable any individuals guilty of committing crimes during the fighting. Omar Musa was finally able to return home: 

When I arrived I was not aware of the danger that I faced. However, I found billboards and posters on the walls near the entrance of the city with emergency phone numbers for reporting any explosive remnants of war. I did not really understand what that meant at the time, but the Mine Risk Education team of Free Fields Foundation (3F) welcomed us and gave us instructions about mines and other dangerous objects and to not touch or approach them.”

When Omar reached his farm in the old city, he found it destroyed. Next to his house, he discovered some metal sticking out of one of his palm trees. Only when he got a little closer, he realised that there was a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) sticking out of the tree. He immediately stopped and went back, remembering the instructions the Mine Risk Education team had given him. Later that same day the 3F Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team came to dispose of the item.

  

/fpi/file/3f-explosive-ordnance-disposal-eod-safely-removes-and-defuses-rpg-grenade_deThe 3F Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) safely removes and defuses the RPG grenade.

The 3F Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) safely removes and defuses the RPG grenade.

The 3F Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team safely removes and defuses the RPG grenade.

Educating fellow Libyans

Following his experience, Omar decided to work with the Free Fields Foundation (3F) as a Community Liaison Officer: 

I am the one delivering Risk Education to new returnees and construction workers and encouraging them to report any dangerous or strange items, coordinating with the EOD team in order to respond as quickly as possible. In 3F, I am working with my colleagues from other cities, many of whom are from Misrata. Despite the past, we are working together as one team to rebuild my city. Now, I am back living in my home with my family and feel safe and secure. My experience since returning makes me believe that despite the long road ahead, we can create a better life.”

 

/fpi/file/omar-works-now-community-liaison-officer-providing-training-fellow-returnees_deOmar works now as a Community Liaison Officer, providing training to fellow returnees

Omar works now as a Community Liaison Officer, providing training to fellow returnees.

Omar works now as a Community Liaison Officer, providing training to fellow returnees.

Making a real impact

In partnership with Danish Demining Group (DDG), between June and December 2018 the Libya-based NGO Free Fields Foundation (3F) delivered Risk Education to more than 1,000 returnees, 330 of which women in Tawergha. Almost 2,500 people, 1,300 of which women, are currently planning to return soon while disposing of 81 ERW in order to ensure the safe and sustainable return of the community and facilitate rehabilitation efforts including the restarting of date palm production.

The mine-awareness campaign and de-mining activities are funded by the European Union's Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcsP). The project is implemented by the Free Fields Foundation (3F) and the Danish Demining Group (DDG). Managed by the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) provides short- and mid-term assistance on conflict prevention, crisis-response and peace-building actions around the world. There are currently around 200 projects in over 75 countries. IcSP projects are implemented by Non-Governmental Organisations, the UN and other International Organisations, EU Member State agencies and regional and sub-regional organisations.

For more information