Libya's ongoing uprising continues to dominate the global media, with the nation's embattled band of rebels continuing to generate headlines. But now, Human Rights Watch (HRW) is shedding light on an oft-overlooked set of Libyan victims: the citizens who've since fled the country's violence for the Choucha refugee camp, just over the border in Tunisia.
As of June 21, the Choucha camp was holding just over 3,027 foreign nationals from 27 countries, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, all of whom had fled Libya. The largest groups are the Somalis, Eritreans, Sudanese, and Ethiopians. As of June 19, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had registered 980 recognized refugees and 1,339 asylum seekers.
The most violent incident, on May 24, stemmed from a protest the previous day, when hundreds of camp residents demonstrated in front of the UNHCR office. The protesters demanded resettlement in Western countries instead of repatriation to their home countries. During the demonstration, camp residents blocked the road that links Tunisia to Libya, halting cross-border trade.
The following morning, a group of camp residents tried to convince the protesters to open the road, setting off a fight. Around 10 a.m., a group of Tunisian civilians, who army officials and camp residents said were from Ben Gardane, 25 kilometers west of Choucha, arrived at the camp, intent on reopening the road. To reach Choucha, they passed two checkpoints patrolled jointly by the Tunisian army and National Guard, apparently without hindrance.
Read the full article on the HRW website here.
View the amazing full gallery by HRW's Samer Muscati here.
Take a look at some samples from Muscati's gallery below. All captions are courtesy of Human RIghts Watch.