Will Externally Displaced Libyans Return Home?

The interim Libyan government has started taking measures to return hundreds of thousands of externally displaced Libyans, especially in Egypt, to their country.

Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, held a series of meetings in the past few days to check progress on the implementation of the plan.

The plan is part of a national reconciliation initiative launched by the government, which is based in the eastern commercial industrial city of al-Bayda.

The initiative aims at bringing the Libyans together, following years of fighting and unrest in the oil-rich North African state.

On November 28, al-Thani held a meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo with some members of his cabinet to discuss incentives in the plan for returning Libyans living in Egypt home.

To convince them to do this, the interim government is offering to pay for their travel and provide them with accommodation and financial support once they return, according to Ali al-Sagheir, the head of the Committee on Externally Displaced Libyans.

He said the government would find jobs for unemployed externally displaced Libyans when they return home and return civil servants to their original jobs before the 2011 revolution against longstanding ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Over a million Libyans flocked to Egypt following the eruption of the Libyan civil war in 2011.

Nonetheless, with eastern Libya becoming more stable, hundreds of thousands of Libyan nationals returned to their country. Now, around half a million Libyans live here.

These are the people al-Thani and the members of his cabinet want to return home.

However, the new initiative raises questions on whether these Libyans would be ready to go back home, especially with the situation in Libya still uncertain.

Although most of eastern Libya is stable, there are turbulent areas in the North African state, including in southern Libya. Some territories are controlled by terrorist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and al-Qaeda.

A war is raging on now on the fringes of capital Tripoli between the National Libyan Army, which controls most of eastern and central Libya, on one hand, and military groups operating under the internationally recognized National Accord Government, which controls the capital and most of western Libya, on the other.

Efforts are being made by the United Nations and different members of the international community to bring about a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Libya. Nonetheless, this conflict is set to exacerbate even more in the coming days with rival regional and international powers backing rival Libyan forces.

These deteriorating conditions are a major hurdle on the way of the return of Libyans displaced outside their country.

Most of those who ran away from Libya were backers of Gaddafi and members of his tribe or members of tribes allied to him.

After Gaddafi’s overthrow, these people were at the centre of public reprisals, which was why they had to run away.

In 2012, the Libyan parliament passed a law that denied Gaddafi’s backers the right to participate in Libya’s political life. The same law stipulated penalties for Gaddafi’s supporters.

Nevertheless, in 2014, the eastern Libya parliament passed a law that offered a general pardon for Gaddafi’s backers. The law is part of a nationwide reconciliation campaign aiming at settling conflicts between Libyans peacefully.

Interim Social Affairs Minister, Fathia Hamed, said huge efforts are made to bring the Libyans together.

The initiative for bringing externally displaced Libyans back home, she said, is based on the national reconciliation plan.

“We will use this plan to convince the Libyans return to their country,” Hamed said. “It is an integral part of the general pardon initiative launched by Libyan state institutions.”