‘I won’t go back’: why Libyans are joining the boats leaving their shores

Libya, a transit stop for migrants trying to reach Europe, is now facing an exodus of its own people

After witnessing abuse and discrimination, Sherif Targi*, 21, decided to leave Libya for Europe.

“I saw killing and massacres because of the conflicts between Tuaregs and the Tebu [ethnic minorities],” he says.

Targi is a Tuareg from the desert city of Ubari in Libya’s south-west. Under Muammar Gaddafi, Tuareg people were marginalised – not issued government IDs, and restricted from getting work and public services. Things didn’t improve after the dictator was ousted.

In October 2019, Targi left home, travelling more than 600 miles (1,000km) to the coastal city of Zuwara. From there, he and about 200 other people, mainly Syrians, Moroccans and Sudanese, crammed themselves on board an overloaded wooden boat, and set off on a dangerous 18-hour journey.

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