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ARMED groups have blocked thousands of refugees from returning to their communities in the crisis-torn Libya.

The militancy has stalled some 5 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the northern Tawergha after recently attempted to return to their hometown.

Tawergha was the site of intense fighting during the Libyan Civil War before its capture and ethnic cleansing by anti- Muammar Gaddafi forces in August 2011.

The town, which lies on the road from Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, is a ghost town after populations fled the civil war.

Following the Presidency Council's decree of 26 December 2017 indicating the start date for the return process, IDP families from the east, south and west of Libya have attempted to return to Tawergha since February 1.

Since the current blockade by rebels, IDPs have been gathering in the area of Qararat al Qataf, some 50 km southwest of Tawergha.

The area is in the city of Tarhuna, which is 65 km southeast of the capital Tripoli.

While negotiations are ongoing for their return, local civil society organizations have reported needs for shelter, food, baby items, hygiene kits, mattresses, blankets and primary healthcare.

Roberto Mignone, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative to Libya, visited the affected communities and met Libyan authorities to assess the humanitarian needs of refugees, asylum-seekers, IDPs, returnees and host communities.

"UNHCR continues to monitor the situation," he said. - CAJ News