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 well-being 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.
Gender based violence including sexual violence, physical violence and economic violence is a key protection risk in Libya. 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 following individual vulnerability assessments, including child protection and victims of trafficking screenings. IOM also conducts protection monitoring visits and assessments at detention centres and at disembarkation points. 

Protection safeguards are also applied in the IOM Voluntary Humanitarian Return process: the IOM Libya mission notifies receiving IOM missions to provide adequate assistance upon the arrival of migrants with vulnerabilities. IOM also provides joint counselling with UNHCR for persons of concern from specified at-risk nationalities as an additional protection safeguard. 


The approach of IOM’s protection work in Libya is multifold. It includes improving service delivery to vulnerable populations within the community, such as survivors of GBV, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied and separated migrant children. Protection outreach activities identify and respond to protection needs of vulnerable migrants and IDPs, as well as promote and support the resilience of communities as well as raising awareness on prevention strategies relating to human trafficking, risks associated with family separation and irregular migration. 

The programme also strengthens institutional mechanisms through capacity-building to support relevant counterparts to ensure sustainable protection of migrants and assist duty bearers, humanitarian actors, and community members to identify and assist vulnerable migrants and IDPs. IOM also advocates to help improve legislation and national policies alignment to international standards. 

Areas of Interventions

Child Protection 

IOM focuses on strengthening the knowledge and capacities of protection caseworkers on child protection concepts and case management. IOM also runs a community placement programme for the most vulnerable migrants, which includes full protection case management services. 

IOM is working to strengthen the capacity of local authorities, embassy officials and detention centre personnel, through training sessions and advocacy on children’s rights, child protection concepts and referral pathways.


IOM Libya’s Counter Trafficking Strategic Framework compromises of two interrelated components, humanitarian and development: 

  1. The humanitarian component aims to provide effective prevention and protection measures by addressing the immediate humanitarian needs of victims of trafficking and persons at risk. 
  2. The development component aims to establish national mechanisms to address immediate and long-term needs by promoting the development of national legal and policy frameworks, strengthening institutional capacities and mobilizing and empowering communities.
Alternatives To Detention

IOM has been working on expanding alternatives to detention in Libya as a standing agenda in its role as co-lead of the Migrant and Refugees Platform. IOM advocates for the establishment of various alternatives to detention including non-custodial measures, open reception facilities, especially for very vulnerable migrants including women and children, review of national legal and policy approaches to immigration detention and decriminalization of irregular entry, stay and exit. 


IOM is working on the identification of vulnerable migrants in and outside of detention, on developing and offering child protection, alternatives to detention and in-depth assessment services, including case management, as well as advocacy activities for the release of children and vulnerable migrants from detention. Currently the protection programme is running its activities in Benghazi, Misrata, Sabha, Tripoli and Zwara. However, because operations respond to the need of migrants dedicated missions are provided on a regular basis to reach individuals in other locations across Libya.