Hawa Selim and her 23-year-old son, who is paralyzed, spent more than three months living outside the UN refugee agency's office in Tripoli, desperately asking for help that never came. Then police arrested them and brought them to a detention center.
Hawa Selim from Darfur in Sudan reached Libya last year with her 23-year-old son, Al-Rasheed Daoud, after a month-long journey through Chad and Egypt.
"The road was very tough, especially with my son's complex health condition," she recounted. "We arrived at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Tripoli after about 28 days of a brutal and terrifying journey."
No help from the UNHCR
Now, she's stranded in Tripoli and desperate for help for her and her son. She's frustrated, she says, because they not received any help so far from the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.
Hawa said she initially lived in the Gargaresh neighborhood "for a short time" until the police "attacked the district in October of last year" and forced her out of her residence "without letting me collect my things [...] they took everything."
"I was left on the street alone with my son, a person with a disability," she said.
"A Libyan woman empathized with us and hosted us in her house for three days, and then we went to the [UNHCR], which locked its doors on us," she recounted.
Detained by Libyan forces
''It was tough for me and my son, Al-Rasheed, as we slept outdoors next to the UNHCR gate for more than three months. The place was dirty, chaotic and inappropriate. [...] This was never easy for my son, especially since he could not enter the bathroom or move on his own. He needs help with everything. There was no response from UNHCR. They were only telling us to be patient," Hawa said.
On January 10, Libyan police forces dismantled the sit-in that migrants had set up in front of UNHCR center in Tripoli.
"Many immigrants fled and the rest were arrested. My son and I were detained and threatened to be sent back to Sudan", Hawa recounted.
'My son needs medical treatment'
"The prison was unbearably horrible and crowded; it was freezing cold inside the large prison room that was closed by three doors. There were no spots left to stay," she said, adding that they had to find space "beside a door that leaked rainwater and cold."
Hawa said this month she was released with her son from the detention facility. She and her son are being temporarily hosted in the home of a family of immigrants in Tripoli.
She said that she and her son are in desperate need for help: "We are strangers in Libya, and we don't know anyone who can help us find a solution. I am still trying to contact the UNHCR to no avail, and they do not answer my calls. My son is in a difficult condition and needs treatment."