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Mother of Four Refused Housing and Told to Return to Libya Based on Google Search

A council has refused a family homelessness support as they are satisfied the mother has accommodation in a country riven by conflict and violence, Sian Norris reports

Libya. Photo: Simon Kremer/dpa/Alamy

Mother of Four Refused Housing And Told to Return to Libya Based on Google Search

A council has refused a family homelessness support as they are satisfied the mother has accommodation in a country riven by conflict and violence, Sian Norris reports

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A mother of four who came to the UK from Libya has been refused housing by her local council, as she has accommodation in the conflict-ridden country, Byline Times can exclusively report.

Documents seen by this newspaper show how an English local authority told Salma (not her real name) that she was “not homeless or threatened with homelessness” as they were “satisfied” she had “accommodation in Libya”, a state that has been embroiled in violence since 2011 and was previously ruled by the authoritarian dictator Muammar Gaddafi. 

Government guidance states “the general humanitarian situation in Libya is so severe as to make removal to this country a breach of Article 15 (b)”, the section of the European Council Directive that protects against degrading and inhuman treatment. 80% of those who have fled the country to the UK since 2020 have been granted asylum or humanitarian protection.

Byline Times has agreed with Salma not to name her or the council, due to her fears that she would face repercussions. However, documents and testimony shared by her and her legal representative confirm her story. 

“I can’t share, it will make it worse, I fear no one understands me,” Salma told Byline Times. “I now have high blood pressure for three months”.


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The council’s decision letter stated that the town where Salma is from in Libya is safe for her to return to, because a Google search of the news revealed there had not been any recent bombings or military action in the region. 

This, argues Salma’s solicitor, is an irrational decision, not least because referring to news reports is a vague measure of assessing a country’s safety. 

“My country is ruled by militias and killing in my country is the easiest thing,” said Salma. She came to the UK on a family reunion visa after her husband was granted humanitarian protection by the Government. 

The council’s decision to refuse Salma’s application for housing included references to inconsistencies in her statement, which she and her lawyer argue were a result of miscommunication, mistranslations and misunderstandings, not a deliberate attempt to mislead. 

The council rejects this claim as it provided a translator for meetings with Salma, and because at times during the meeting, she spoke English. It also pointed to contradictory statements Salma had apparently made, which left decision-makers “satisfied” she had accommodation back in Libya.

In contrast, Salma’s solicitors continue to argue that the fragile human rights situation in the region means it is unsafe for her to return there, regardless of whether she has accommodation and family ties in the country. 

Libya is listed by the UK Government as a human rights priority country, alongside 31 states including Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. Since 2020, four people have been deported from the UK to the country. The council cited this fact to support its argument that Salma is safe to return to North Africa. 

This fails to acknowledge, however, that in the same time period there have been 275 asylum claims from Libya, according to the latest Home Office data. Of these, 221 claims were granted asylum or humanitarian protection – or 80%. 

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The Government country and policy notes explain the desperate humanitarian situation in Libya, stating that “since 2014 Libya has been divided and beset by instability and conflict between two rival governments in Tripoli, in the western part of the country, and in Tobruk in the east”.

“The ongoing conflict … has led to extensive damage to civilian homes and public infrastructure, including health, education, roads and administrative facilities, severely disrupting basic services including the provision of safe drinking water, gas and electricity,” the notes continue.

It adds that “more than 893,000 people (approximately 15% of the estimated total population of around 6.8 million) are in need of humanitarian assistance – a 9% increase compared to 2018”.

Exclusions do apply to those seeking asylum if someone seeking to remain in the UK has been involved in human rights abuses in Libya. The guidance advises that “if it is accepted that the person has been involved with such a group, then decision makers must consider whether there are serious reasons for considering whether one (or more) of the exclusion clauses is applicable. Each case must be considered on its individual facts and merits”.

There is no evidence to suggest that Salma would merit an exclusion. Instead, her refusal regarding homelessness support comes from the local authority, not the Home Office, and is based on the council’s decision that she can return to Libya as the local authority is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that her accommodation in the country is safe. 

“I just want safety and education for my children,” Salma told Byline Times. Her husband, she claims, “has a problem with the militias, who targeted the house”. 

In 2011, Gaddafi’s brutal and violent regime was overthrown during a series of revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa region known as the Arab Spring. The UK Government, then led by Prime Minister David Cameron, provided military support to the rebels. 

However, the UK’s actions were heavily criticised in by a Parliamentary Select Committee in 2016. MPs found that Cameron’s intervention in Libya was carried out with no proper intelligence analysis, drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and failed in its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country after Gaddafi was killed.

Barack Obama described the intervention as a “s**tshow”, with Britain quickly losing interest in the country. This failure has contributed to Libya becoming a failed state, with evidence of forced labour and “slave markets”, people smuggling, torture, summary executions, and widespread gender-based violence. 

Since 2014, 1,075 civilians have been killed in the conflict as a result of armed violence, along with a further 2,332 civilian injuries, according to data collected by Action on Armed Violence.  

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