- The UN refugee agency UNHCR today confirmed it was entering into dialogue with the government of Libya to avoid closing its activities in the important transit country, following a leave order on Tuesday.
The UN agency, which has registered and cares for 9,000 refugees and 3,700 asylum seekers in Libya, earlier this week announced it had been ordered by the Tripoli government to close its office in the country and halt all of its activities without any explanation.
Libya has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention - the legal instrument regulating refugee and asylum processes globally - and has no national asylum system in place. In the absence of a national asylum system, UNHCR has carried out registration and refugee status determination.
Libyan authorities pointed to exactly this fact, that it was not a signatory to the 1951 convention, to explain why government considered the presence of the UN agency on its territory as being "illegal". The Tripoli government had previously advised UNHCR several times of this situation, it was now informed.
UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming today said that the UN agency was aware of the concerns of the Libyan government, but was trying to search an open and constructive dialogue to remove any possible misunderstanding.
Ms Fleming added that she expected these efforts to lead to a solution that would allow the humanitarian agency to resume its works in Libya.
UNHCR has been working in Libya since 1991 at the invitation of the government. Most of the refugees it deals with are Palestinians and Iraqis, with others typically coming from Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Liberia and Ethiopia.
In addition to the works at the now closed Tripoli office, UNHCR staff in Libya have also been allowed to visit immigrants in 15 detention centres, providing medical and humanitarian assistance to detainees and deciding on their legal status. Libyan authorities in practical terms have recognised the legal status set on migrants by UNHCR officials.
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