Leaving Libya - A Review of UNHCR’s Emergency Operation in Tunisia and Egypt 2011-2012

UNHCR’s 2011 emergency operation in North Africa, which followed the outbreak of civil war in Libya, addressed one of the largest mixed migration crises that the organization has ever encountered. The unanticipated emergency generated a massive influx of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Tunisia and Egypt, two countries which themselves had only recently experienced major political upheavals. As a result of these considerations, little contingency planning had taken place.

In the first few weeks of the emergency, the majority of the new arrivals were third-country nationals, that is, citizens of neither Libya nor the countries to which they moved. Altogether, more than 120 nationalities were represented in the exodus, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Libyans who enjoyed de facto temporary protection on Egyptian and Tunisian soil, as well as access to public services.

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