Libya’s forgotten ones

Published: 23/Mar/2021
Source: Zenith Magazine (Berlin)

By Ghady Abdulaziz

Tens of thousands of stateless people live in Libya. Successive governments have been holding out the prospect of citizenship to them for decades – and complicate everything ever more.

The family of Yousef Abdulkareem, a 54-year-old teacher, has its roots in the Kufra district in Worouy, a small oasis in Libya’s far south, right at the border with Chad. His father used to tend to his flock in these remote border lands for certain months of the year.

Although the area lies officially within Libyan territory it flew completely under the radar of census-takers in both 1954 and 1964, which is why Yousef’s family was not registered. “The census committees never reached our areas, so we failed to be registered as citizens”, remembers Yousef.

At the time, census-takers covered more central areas in southern Libya, but skipped remote places like the southern wadis in Kufra and Uweinat. A lack of information on whether anyone actually lived there and where to find them certainly made their job difficult.

Nevertheless, Yousef’s family succeeded in having their names added to the district registry of Kufra in 1975, only for the public prosecutor to suspend this registry two years later, when it included 43 families. And while this decision was revoked only a week later, the local office of the Civil Registry Authority refused to add the families to its citizen records.

Unwilling to give up, Youssef filed a lawsuit against the Civil Registry, which he won. The court’s decision, however, was met yet again with reluctance from the authorities in Kufra. But Yousef refuses to give up: “I will not stop standing up for my rights and justice.”

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Themes: Birth Registration, ID Documents and Passports, Statelessness
Regions: Libya
Year: 2021