Libya has taken the surprise decision of ordering the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, to close its operations in Tripoli. No official reason has been given.
Representatives of the agency in Europe, whose mandate covers the Mediterranean region, claim the move puts the future of more than 12,000 refugees and asylum seekers at risk.
The expulsion has taken on an added gravity because of the Italian policy of pushing refugees who are fleeing North Africa and the Middle East out of Italian waters back towards Libya.
Libya has not signed the 1951 convention on refugees and the UNCHR has been working in the country since 2001.