SEATTLE, Washington — Libyans have been suffering from years of political and economic instability without any respite, and now a civil war prevents the people of Libya from obtaining quality of life. The H.R. 4644: Libya Stabilization Act has been introduced to quell the conflict in Libya, protect vulnerable communities and provide humanitarian aid.
The Current Situation in Libya
Three years after the end of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in 2011, a civil war erupted between opposing government forces in Libya after failed attempts to establish a democratic state. Currently, the Government National Accord, which is backed by the United Nations and centered in west Libya, is fighting against the Libyan National Army in the east. Peace talks so far have been unsuccessful.
One of Libya’s most profitable natural resources is oil. The country’s prominent industry surrounding the production and distribution of oil has become severely disrupted by the civil war. Not only has inflation risen as a result of this disruption, but there have been many power outages due to the diminished fuel supply.
The living conditions of the Libyan people have worsened as a consequence of an unstable economy and the constant threat of violence. Conflict in Libya has stripped many of their homes, access to medical infrastructure and access to sufficient food and clean water. Out of a population of fewer than 7 million people, 1.3 million now require humanitarian assistance in Libya.
In 2017, more than 200,000 internally displaced persons were recorded by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Additionally, there were more than 43,000 asylum-seekers and refugees traveling through Libya en route to Europe. The thousands of refugees and migrants that have been taken into detention facilities are at risk due to overcrowding and the lack of essential resources.
The Libya Stabilization Act
On October 11, 2019, Representative Theodore Deutch of Florida introduced the H.R. 4664: Libya Stabilization Act to combat the Libyan humanitarian crisis. The primary goal of the Libya Stabilization Act is to provide humanitarian aid and develop sanctions on Libyan forces contributing to the conflict to bring political and economic stability to the country “both during and after a negotiated and peaceful political solution.”
There are concerns that the continuation and escalation of Libya’s civil war could create an opening for the Islamic State (ISIS) to re-emerge and conduct attacks. Establishing stability in Libya is considered to be crucial to the security of Libya itself, the United States and many other foreign powers.
The act grants the U.S. government the authority to enact “property and visa-blocking” sanctions, which would remain in effect until December 31, 2024. The Department of State would have the responsibility to unify Libya’s “financial and governing institutions” and to oversee future democratic elections in Libya.
Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio co-sponsored the bill’s most recent amendments this July, which adds “protections for victims of trafficking, slavery and forced labor, including migrants.” This addition emphasizes how the Libya Stabilization Act prioritizes the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection to vulnerable populations, including women, children, migrants and refugees in Libya. Public health, food, shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) support would be provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The bill further advocates for the release and evacuation of all refugees and migrants in detention centers as a means of protecting these disadvantaged communities.
Next Steps for H.R. 4644
Since its introduction in October 2019, 13 representatives have co-sponsored the Libya Stabilization Act. Between October and November, the bill was referred to the Committee of Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship.
The Libya Stabilization Act remains stalled in committees within the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill states that “only a political process can secure United States interests, ensure a stable and unified Libya, reduce the threat of terrorism and provide peace and opportunity to the people of Libya.” With this in mind, the passage of H.R. 4644 is vital to protecting many Libyans’ health and safety while promoting the security of the United States and other nations.