A Scientific Initiative on/for Border Abolitionism

Node 14 - Experimental


October 2023 - February 2024

Libya - Tripoli

Migrant Mobilizations in Libya: Local and Trans-National Forms of Solidarity

The research reconstructs the recent history of self-organized protests by people on the move in Libya, and analyzes the functional and spatial relationship between these initiatives and solidarity in its different forms.

Introduction: This research looks at self-organized forms of mobilization and protest by people on the move in Libya, and assesses the role of solidarity – both endogenous (from within migrant groups) and exogenous (from external actors such as Libyan citizens, local and international NGOs, diaspora groups or other civil society actors) – in supporting these mobilizations and protests, and in facilitating the process of route-making towards Europe.

Context: Migrants in Libya are systematically subject to grave abuses both in and outside detention, from both state and non-state actors. Support from international organizations (IOs) or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is extremely limited if not completely impeded. This makes any self-organization for people on the move to claim their rights extremely difficult. In recent years, however, migrants started mobilizing and organizing protests, sit-ins, hunger and healthcare strikes, etc., both in and outside detention. More recent developments include the establishment of a more formalized movement (‘Refugees in Libya’) in October 2021, and an international support network called (‘Solidarity with Refugees in Libya’, then ‘Alliance with Refugees in Libya’).

Research questions: The research looks at different forms of mobilizations of people on the move in Libya since 2018. It analyzes these initiatives as expressions of mutual, endogenous solidarity among migrants, and as catalysts for exogenous (both local and trans-border) forms of solidarity.

The research interrogates the dynamics of production and reproduction of trans-Mediterranean and trans-national solidarity spaces, and the relationship between the directionalities of solidarity across the continents and the directionalities of people’s movement along the so-called central Mediterranean route: How does solidarity facilitate travel trajectories to Europe? How does solidarity itself develop by stretching over territories and becoming transnational?

What kind of solidarity spaces do these initiatives open up across the Mediterranean and across the continents? What kind of route-making do they facilitate?

May these spaces of solidarity be regarded as instances of counter-externalization or counter-delocalization?

Methodology: The research draws on document analysis (including materials produced by migrant activists, as well as by IOs, NGOs, media outlets etc.), participant observation of activist initiatives and public events, as well as interviews and informal conversations with migrant and non-migrant activists (also including people who participated in migrant protests in Libya), journalists, researchers and representatives of IOs and NGOs (both Libyan and international).


P. Cuttitta