Amnesty International has urged the Libyan authorities to stop the "discriminatory" forced evictions of members of the Tabu tribe in the south-east of the country, after five more families had their homes demolished last week.
Armed security personnel used bulldozers to evict members of the Tabu community in the city of Kufra on Thursday. Scores of Tabu families have lost their homes since November 2009 and it appears that many more evictions may be planned.
“These forcible evictions and house demolitions come on top of other discrimination by the Libyan authorities against members of the Tabu community in Kufra and its surrounding areas,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Some Tabu families have told us that their children can no longer attend school because the authorities refuse to register them, while others complain that pregnant women have been denied treatment at hospitals because they lack official identity documents."
Discriminatory measures against the Tabu community have included refusing to renew or extend passports and other identification documents, including driving licences. In other cases, parents were not allowed to register the birth of their children and were denied birth certificates.
There are no official statistics on the number of members of the Tabu community in Libya. Most are believed to live in Kufra and the surrounding regions in south-eastern Libya, close to the borders with Chad, Niger and Sudan. They have their own spoken language called Tabu.
In November 2009, Libyan security officials are reported to have ordered that the identification documents of all members of the Tabu community under the age of 18 should be confiscated and that they should not be permitted to travel.
The same month, an official letter ordered the demolition of 730 "unsanitary houses" in three predominantly Tabu neighbourhoods, without making any provision for the families affected to be offered alternative housing or emergency accommodation.
Dozens of people are reported to have been arrested since November for attempting to prevent the demolitions. They were only reportedly released by the Libyan Internal Security Agency after they agreed to sign a document saying that they would not oppose the demolitions.
Some of the families evicted were given only minutes to leave their homes. Others received a few hours’ notice that their houses would be destroyed when they were marked with a cross the day before the bulldozers moved in.
Those who resisted were reportedly beaten with sticks by security officials or threatened with high-pressure hoses by firefighters.
In some cases, law enforcement officials are said to have destroyed furniture inside the houses.
Families have told Amnesty International that those evicted were neither consulted in advance about the decision to evict them, nor offered alternative housing. Some have still not been able to find alternative housing and live in the ruins of their former homes without shelter.
Tabu community leaders are reported to have been informed by local officials in June 2009 that some house demolitions were planned but without other details, including when or how many dwellings would be destroyed.
The officials said the demolitions were needed to make way for a road and that they were acting on instructions "from above".
"If the homes that have been demolished or others that face demolition are indeed unsafe, the Libyan authorities must provide the families affected with appropriate alternative housing or else emergency accommodation," said Malcolm Smart.
"There must also be a process of genuine consultation with residents of all designated 'unsanitary houses' in the affected areas in Kufra and to explore all feasible alternatives to evictions."