IRIN) – Two 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 the tables have turned, and many of those same families find themselves in Libya after fleeing the Syrian conflict, which has left an estimated 6.8 million people (around a third of the population) in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
Most of the Syrian community in Libya, estimated at around 110,000 by government officials, are believed to have arrived over the past 18 months after having fled the Syrian conflict.
Shavan, a Syrian ethnic Kurd, arrived in Libya in January. “Alone, I left Syria at the end of 2011 leaving my wife and my daughter. I was looking for a place to live far away from the hell of conflict,” Shevan said.
After what he says was a difficult year in Lebanon, where he struggled to pay his living costs, he went back into Syria to pick up his family and then left for Libya.
The flow of Syrians to Libya, while far lower than the numbers seen arriving in Syria’s neighbours, started almost as soon as the Libyan revolution ended in October 2011.
Some come by air from Lebanon or Turkey, but most have arrived by road, heading through Jordan and then across the Sinai to the Libyan-Egyptian border town of El Salloum (in Egypt).
In the initial stages, Syrians with a passport could enter without a visa, but the rules have been tightened since the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi in September 2012, after which only families, not single men, were allowed in.