A safe house in Libya is providing refuge for migrants trying to escape from the militias across the country. Founded in 2015 and funded by donations from local residents and businesses, the house now shelters twelve people, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa.
The man behind the project is Al-Hussein Bin Gharsa. He wants to show the good side of the Libyan people, he explained, especially the residents of Bani Walid. "We do this work because this is a city of generosity and hospitality."
A report in Reuters this week has highlighted the impact of the militias which have controlled large parts of Libya since the NATO-backed protests against Muammar Gaddafi's regime in 2011. These militias fight to control land and economic assets, while running migrant smuggling networks.
African migrants heading for Europe via Libya face numerous threats, including rape and forced prostitution. The International Organisation for Migration, an affiliate of the UN, has confirmed the presence of over 500,000 registered migrants in Libya. The number trying to reach Europe has increased this year.
Reuters cited the experience of Halima William, 23, and her husband Mark, 27, who crossed the Sahara from Nigeria to Libya in search of a better life. She was forced by a militia to work as a prostitute until she managed to escape and find refuge in Bin Gharsa's safe house. Her husband was detained and abused before being reunited with Halima in Bani Walid.
Held for seven months, Mark had to pay a ransom to a militia for his release. He was then able to find work in Bani Walid on a construction site.
Now that they have been reunited, the couple plan to continue their journey to Europe. They are grateful for the support given to the safe house by the UN and Médecins Sans Frontières.