Two and a half years ago Syrians, in the relative security of their own country, watched the unfolding crisis in Libya descend into a devastating civil war. Since then many families fleeing the war in Syria have found themselves in Libya. The exodus from Syria to Libya began almost as soon as the Libyan revolution ended in October 2011. Syrians, Palestinians and Kurdish communities are sheltered throughout the country. Some cross Lebanon or Turkey, many by road, some by air, and still others travel via Egypt or from Jordan through the Sinai to the Libyan – Egyptian border town of El Salloum (in Egypt). As of October 2013, according to the Syrian communities in Libya about 200.000 Syrians were estimated to be scattered throughout Libya from Zawyia, Zwara, Misrata, Al Khums, to Tobrouk in the East and up to Kufra and Sabha in the South, although these numbers have not been verified by UNHCR. Some arrive with either expired or no documents and are unable to renew them since the Syrian Embassy in Libya was closed in 2011. As of October 2013, over 14,000 people from Syria have been registered with UNHCR in Libya. Pre-existing ties with Libya and employment opportunities are believed to be the main reasons why Syrians seek refuge in Libya. Yet, many encounter difficulties in finding jobs. A small number also report arrest and detention over allegations of ties with the Syrian government. Without legal and valid identification, many struggle to access medical assistance or education in the host country. Due to the difficulties with settling in Libya, thousands people fleeing the on going war in Syria have left by boat from Libya to the Italian and Maltese coasts from August to October 2013. Between January and the end of September, at least 7,557 Syrians and Palestinians arrived on the coast of Italy, including 6,233 since August on 63 boats.
This compares to approximately 350 Syrians for the total year in 2012.
Most of the Syrians who reach Italy continue on to other countries in Europe in search of asylum. Among those who arrive, the journey not only involves risks but exorbitant sums to be paid ranging from 1,000 – 5,000 dollars per person. Syrians are now the largest nationality using sea routes to reach Italy.