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Why were we there?

  • Refugee assistance

Our Work

  • Violent clashes in Libya in early 2011 forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave the country, many across the Tunisian border.
  • Médecins Sans Frontières staff in Ras Ajdir, a small coastal town on the border, were blocked from crossing into Libya to assist the victims of the conflict, and witnessed thousands of people arriving in Tunisia in search of safety.


Assisting Libyan refugees

  • Health centres in towns and villages bordering Libya were under enormous pressure. In the town of Dehiba, just a few kilometres from the border, Médecins Sans Frontières set up a stabilisation centre, caring for people who had been injured in the conflict.
  • Other teams set up mobile clinics in Dehiba, Remada and Tataouine, offering medical care as well as psychological support to refugees.


Mental healthcare

  • Médecins Sans Frontières identified a gap in mental healthcare, and a team began offering mental health services in Shousha refugee camp, close to Ras Ajdir, in March, later extending assistance to people staying in two other transit camps in the area.
  • By June, more than 600,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers had left Libya, and although many were rapidly repatriated to their country of origin, thousands remained stranded in Egypt, Italy, Niger or Tunisia, with great uncertainty for their future. For many, this stress, added to the traumatic experiences they had been through or witnessed while fleeing the conflict in Libya, and the persecution and ill-treatment some of them had survived prior to the conflict, was too much.



  • In Shousha, the largest camp, some 4,000 people, mainly sub-Saharan Africans, had still not been repatriated, months after arriving, mainly because of dangerous situations in their countries of origin. Poor living conditions in the camp, inadequate for a long-term stay, and growing security issues, led to violent clashes in May.
  • Médecins Sans Frontières expanded its activities, to provide medical care, and distribute food, water and relief items, as well as mental healthcare. 


Handover of activities

  • By August 2011, the majority of Libyan refugees had returned home, and Médecins Sans Frontières began to scale down activities, stopping them completely in September. Thousands of third-country nationals remained stranded in Shousha, but there were enough organisations working in the camp to cover medical needs.
  • Médecins Sans Frontières therefore handed its activities over to these organisations. Before leaving, medical supplies and equipment were donated to health facilities in the towns of Tataouine and Medenine.


Fleeing Misrata

  • In April, the Libyan city of Misrata was the scene of heavy fighting: residents were cut off from external assistance and hospitals and clinics were overwhelmed with casualties.
  • Médecins Sans Frontières carried out two medical evacuations from Misrata to Tunisia. A team removed 135 patients by boat, with medical staff providing urgent assistance on board. Upon arrival, the Tunisian health authorities and the Tunisian Red Crescent transferred the patients to medical facilities in Sfax and Zarzis, and on the island of Djerba.


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Médecins Sans Frontières started and ended work in the country in 2011.