Despite a presidential decree giving them permission to return to their homes, the people of Tawergha remain displaced nearly seven years on.
Despite all the political efforts and promises, the people of the Libyan town of Tawergha remain displaced seven years on. The plight of some 40,000 people stuck in the desert reflects the byzantine state of Libyan politics and the lack of reconciliation between the country’s different communities nearly a decade after the death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
The displacement of the people of Tawergha and the destruction of the town goes back to 2011, during the Libyan Civil War between the loyalists of Colonel Gaddafi and the Libyan rebels. Much of the population of Tawergha had sided with the loyalists and recruits from the town were present when the loyalists besieged the neighbouring pro-rebel town of Misrata. The Misratans say that during the siege, the Tawerghan loyalists committed numerous war crimes on the Misratan population. Once Gaddafi was fell, the Misratans attacked Tawergha, sacking the town and displacing its populace. Since then, the town has been deserted.
Left homeless, the Tawerghans have been stuck in camps for displaced people for the past seven years. Huddled in some 250 tents, thousands of people are exposed to the harsh desert elements and lack basic necessities. Most of their lives are supported through aid. But the delivery of aid has become less and less frequent over the years.
Meanwhile, the political back and forth continues, seemingly without any resolution. On the 26th of December, Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) issued a presidential decree to allow for the return of the Tawerghans from the 1st of February onwards. Hopes of resettlement however, were dashed after the Misratan Militias blocked the return of the Tawerghans to their homes despite being nominally under the authority of the GNA. Since then, the situation has returned to how it has over the past years.
The people of Tawergha have not given up on the idea of returning to their homes. But with for a whole generation that is growing up displaced, “home” is a distant memory.