The humanitarian emergency in Libya is ultimately a protection crisis, especially for migrants. Migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees experience acute challenges to their safety and wellbeing and are the most vulnerable to harm due to limited coping capacity and loss of assets. There is a higher risk of exploitation and discrimination for vulnerable migrants, displaced women, returnees and IDPs of low economic means.

Women and girls from migrant and IDP communities face the threat of gender-based violence (GBV) and many fear moving outside their communities alone. Migrant children are particularly at risk of trafficking and kidnapping.

Sub-Saharan Africans are exposed to higher risks in Libya compared to migrants from other regions. Irregular migrants or migrants who may have lost their documents in transit are at risk of being arrested or detained at any time when out in public. They may also be arbitrarily arrested, kidnapped, ransomed and trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation by armed groups.

The IOM Protection programme in Libya supports vulnerable migrants and internally displaced and conflict affected Libyans. Individual assistance is provided through the identification of vulnerable migrants in need of support. IOM conducts monitoring visits to detention centres and provides psychosocial first aid for migrants returned to the Libyan shore by the Libyan Coast Guard and vulnerable migrants in detention.

Protection safeguards are also applied in the IOM Voluntary Humanitarian Return process: IOM notifies receiving missions  to provide adequate assistance upon the arrival of migrants with vulnerabilities. IOM also provides joint counselling with UNHCR for Somali nationals who might face protection risks in the country of origin.