Libya remains a destination country along the Central Mediterranean migration route, but also a key transit location and starting point for those attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. While work is underway for defining the future comprehensive, integrated border management system and Search and Rescue (SAR) architecture to be implemented in the country, national authorities remain challenged by difficulties related to the availability of adequate infrastructure, human resources and effective procedures that would enable them to handle major cross-border flows of irregular migrants and counter human smuggling networks. 

IOM is called upon, together with its international partners and in coordination with Libyan national authorities, to provide assistance in addressing the complex challenges of migration management in the country. To prevent further unnecessary and tragic deaths at sea and alleviate the suffering of migrants embarking upon the dangerous voyage across the Sahara desert, IOM’s Search and Rescue Programme provides a tailored mechanism to provide protection-oriented and human rights-based assistance to migrants upon disembarkation and those rescued in the desert. 

IOM coordinates its engagement with other organizations within the United Nations in Libya, with the humanitarian and donors’ community, and other IOM offices around the Mediterranean region, including the IOM Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC). 


In Libya, IOM actively promotes the implementation of protection-oriented and human rights-based SAR operations in addressing the increasing challenges related to migration management through enhancing capacities of relevant national entities to manage emergencies, deliver lifesaving assistance to migrants disembarked, those rescued in the desert and inside official detention centres.

Areas of Intervention

Technical Assistance

SAR facilitates and provides technical support to Libyan authorities to help address urgent humanitarian needs and foster cross-sectoral partnerships. The programme also assists national migration authorities to implement protection-oriented interventions for improving the basic living conditions of migrants through the provision of drinking water, improved sanitation and better hygiene standards in facilities where migrants are hosted, including disembarkation points, SAR ships and detention centres. To strengthen the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other contagious diseases, IOM implements preventive measures through delivering personal protective equipment, conducting hygiene promotion campaigns and organizing COVID-19 awareness sessions, and regular fumigations and disinfection activities in facilities that accommodate migrants.

Protection Oriented Assistance Upon Disembarkation

IOM closely collaborates with national authorities and implementing partners to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance and protection-oriented services to vulnerable migrants rescued at sea and in the desert. This assistance is guided by the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP) and provided by following Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on SAR. Gender-responsive protection principles and frameworks protecting children are among the critical tenets guiding the provided assistance. Assistance to rescued migrants includes, the provision of primary health care services, case referral, protection screening, psychosocial support, and the provision of food and non-food items. 

Capacity Building

To promote safe, humane, and orderly migration in Libya, IOM works in collaboration with the Libyan Coast Guard and Port Security (LCG) of the Ministry of Defence, the General Administration of Coastal Security (GACS) and the Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) of the Ministry of Interior and other organizations involved in SAR operations to enhance their capacities to engage with and assist migrants in a protection-oriented and human rights-based manner. IOM provides expertise and advice for policy framework development, migration data management, cross-border cooperation with neighbouring countries and introducing technological innovation and know-how, such as the registration of migrants. Furthermore, the programme includes a comprehensive and tailored training component aimed at continuously enhancing the capacities of national entities to carry out their duties according to the best international standards while respecting the fundamental human rights of migrants.


In Libya, SAR promotes the implementation of protection-oriented and human rights-based initiatives at all accessible disembarkation points along Libya’s Mediterranean coast while retaining the ability to scale up its geographical scope based on emerging needs. IOM coordinates directly with the relevant authorities and is present during almost every disembarkation, to provide lifesaving assistance to migrants before their admission to migrant detention centres managed by the DCIM. IOM is also working with Libyan authorities to develop a knowledge base on border management context in the South to improve inter- and intra-governmental dialogue and policy development on integrated border management and SAR in the desert.