“For too many people displacement becomes more protracted every day, as insecurity and fear of persecution are making it impossible for them to return to their homes,” the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, told a news conference in Tripoli.
“Many efforts have been made for the planned return of the Tawergha people on February 1 after seven years of displacement,” she said at the end of a visit to Libya.
“I’m alarmed by reported threats that have barred their return. When I spoke to families, many wanted to return, others were afraid,” she said, expressing “grave concern over the protracted displacement facing many Libyans”.
Armed groups on Thursday blocked thousands of displaced from returning to their homes in the town of Tawergha.
Libya’s UN-backed unity government had announced that the displaced from Tawergha would return under an accord struck by its representatives and of Misrata in eastern Libya that runs the town.
But armed groups from Misrata set up roadblocks outside Tawergha to prevent the return of hundreds of families.
Misrata’s local council urged the Government of National Accord (GNA) to intervene and delay the operation for security reasons.
The GNA, for its part, called in a statement for “reason and patriotism to prevail… to put an end to the suffering of the displaced and allow them to return home”.
The 35,000 residents of Tawergha, a town which sided with Kadhafi’s forces right up to his fall, have for the past seven years been kept in camps on the outskirts of Tripoli or scattered across the country.
Living in wretched conditions, they are the frequent target of attacks by militiamen, especially from Misrata, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the capital.