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.
John Osas, 32, with his children, lost two Nigerian friends when the ship they were on capsized on June 1, 2011. "I will never forget the horrible nightmares that I saw and heard on that ship," he told Human Rights Watch. "Everything that could have gone wrong, did."
A makeshift church at the Choucha camp in Tunisia, which houses more than 3,000 migrants displaced from Libya in recent months. Several violent incidents in May 2011 left at least six camp residents dead, and parts of the camp destroyed by fire.
Haybet Shaikawa, 22, with her daughter in their tent at the Choucha camp, where they have lived since March 28, 2011. "Conditions at the camp are difficult, but we have no other option," she said. "There is no life for us back in Ethiopia, and there is too much violence right now in Libya."
An Eritrean man with burns to his arms recovers at a hospital after a suspicious fire killed four Eritreans and destroyed tents at the Choucha camp on May 22, 2011.
A 39-year-old Sudanese man recovers at a hospital after he was shot in the arm on May 24, 2011. Choucha camp residents allege that the Tunisians from a nearby town looted the residents' meager possessions and burned a few dozen tents to the ground during the confrontation.