Safety and security
The political situation in Libya remains fragile and the security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable. Since 3 April 2019 there has been a significant build-up of militarised forces in the west of Libya. Sporadic armed clashes have taken place to the south and west of Tripoli. Forces opposed to the recognised government have reportedly gained control over a number of towns, including Gharyan (75-80km from the capital). Prime Minister Serraj has announced a state of emergency and full mobilisation of military and security units loyal to the government. On 8 April 2019, Mitiga airport closed temporarily following an airstrike. Flights are likely to be cancelled at short notice.
On 27 August 2018, a militia mounted an offensive in southern Tripoli districts against a coalition of Government-aligned militia. A ceasefire was brokered on 28 August and subsequently broken within hours. Another ceasefire announced on 31 August was broken shortly afterwards. Neighbourhoods have been subject to indiscriminate shelling, including central districts. Reports suggest there have been over 120 fatalities and over 450 wounded, the majority of whom are civilians. A UN-brokered ceasefire was agreed on 4 September 2018, but clashes continued until 25 September. Mitiga airport was closed for 4 weeks during this period, with flights diverted to Misrata. Flights out of Mitiga resumed on 26 September 2018.
On 15 January 2018, a militia mounted an offensive against Mitiga Airport in Tripoli, currently held by the Government of National Accord’s Special Deterrence Force (SDF). There were at least 20 fatalities and 60 wounded in the clashes, resulting in a temporary closure of Mitiga airport and damage to the airport and a number of aircraft.
Fighting can break out anywhere without warning, including between local militia groups, and many civilians have been killed in outbreaks of conflict in residential areas.
There’s a high risk of civilians, including journalists, humanitarian and medical workers, being caught in indiscriminate gunfire or shelling, including air strikes, in all areas where there is fighting.
There has been heavy conflict during 2016 and 2017 in several areas, including parts of Tripoli, Benghazi, Zawiyah, Sabratha, Dernah, and in central Libya at Barak al Shati, Sebha, As-Sidra and Jufra. These conflicts include pro-Government of National Accord (GNA) forces, troops under the control of General Heftar, local militias and also extremist groups such as Ansar Al Sharia and affiliates of Daesh and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M). Derna (1300km east of Tripoli) is under a state of siege by the Libyan National Army with all routes in and out closed, and civilians have been killed in air attacks on the city.
Reports of violence, reprisal killings, looting and human rights abuses continue across the country. If you choose to travel to Libya against FCO advice, you should monitor the local security situation carefully. Political events may impact on the security situation.
The ongoing political impasse and conflict has seriously affected public infrastructure and services, resulting in power cuts, water, fuel, food and cash shortages, absence of medicines, and high inflation. In June 2017 the UN High Commission for Refugees reported that more than 1.3 million people – including internally displaced people (IDPs), as well as vulnerable Libyans, host communities, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers – are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
Power outages can last for 18 hours per day in Tripoli and several days in the South and are affecting mobile phone and internet signals.
There’s a very high risk of criminal kidnap for ransom in Tripoli and coastal towns to the West of Tripoli. There’s an elevated risk of kidnap for ransom and arbitrary detention by local militias throughout Libya.
Ongoing conflict and the proliferation of armed militias has led to a rise in crime in most areas, including violent robbery, carjacking and kidnapping.
Since December 2013, a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in Libya. Foreigners are also increasingly targeted for kidnappings by both criminal and extremist groups. See Terrorism
If you travel to Libya against FCO advice, you should regularly reassess your security arrangements and carefully plan your movements. Take security advice from competent security experts before any travel within the country. Close security protection is extremely important. In the event of a further deterioration of the security situation, routes in and out of major cities and towns may become blocked and airports closed or inaccessible at little or no notice. Don’t advertise your travel or other plans through social media. Avoid routine, vary your travel routes, and keep a low profile at all times.
Foreign nationals including journalists are vulnerable to mistreatment by armed groups in Libya. Intimidation, attacks, detentions and kidnapping of local journalists are a serious problem, and a number have been killed. There is a real risk of hostility from those who object to media reporting. Regular, semi-regular and irregular detention of foreign nationals occurs regularly in all parts of Libya.
Road travel within Libya remains highly dangerous. There continues to be a risk of being caught up in outbreaks of hostilities. There’s also a high risk of carjacking and robbery. The coastal road between Zawiyah and Tripoli presents an elevated risk. There’s a risk of striking unexploded ordnance off-road.
Road traffic accidents are frequent and often result in fatalities.
Chad and Niger have closed their border with Libya on several occasions in 2017 without warning, in response to the activity of armed groups in the area. Tunisian border crossings are affected by frequent clashes along the coastal road in west Libya and are often inaccessible.
On 31 August 2018 Mitiga airport in Tripoli closed and diverted incoming flights to Misrata following artillery shells striking the airport. It reopened on 7 September but closed again overnight on 11 September following a further rocket attack. On 15 January there were at least 20 fatalities and 60 wounded after clashes around the airport, leading to a temporary closure.
On 13 July 2014, Tripoli International Airport was closed following clashes that broke out between armed groups in the area surrounding the airport. Other airports may change their flight schedule without notice.
Benghazi airport was closed between May 2014 and July 2017. It’s now slowly reopening to commercial flights but its security provision remains untested. Tripoli Mitiga Airport has been temporarily closed due to nearby violence several times in 2017 and 2018, but usually reopens soon after violence subsides.
Due to a number of ongoing safety concerns, the European Union has agreed with the Libyan authorities to continue a voluntary restriction on Libyan airlines flying into the EU. However, some Libyan airlines operate flights to the EU using aircraft leased from other airlines. The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
Contact your airline or travel company for further information before travelling.