More than 1,000 Libyan students are currently studying in the United States, and the continuing unrest in their homeland has them worried. To make matters worse, the Libyan Embassy in the U.S. apparently contacted many of the students and threatened to take away government scholarships unless they attended a pro-Khadafy rally in Washington, DC. The Libyan Ambassador (predictably) denied any such threats.
Some of the students are politically active. For example, a student in New York has started a Twitter account called Enough Gaddafi that has over 7,000 followers (a website is coming soon). In Kentucky, a group of 50 Libyans gathered to voice their support for the protestors in Libya. And Libyan students in Colorado and Oklahoma are speaking out publicly against Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy.
Given the current situation, can Libyans in the U.S. successfully claim political asylum?
As usual in immigration law, the answer is a definite maybe. For those students listed by name in newspapers and who engaged in anti-Khadafy political activity, or who made anti-Khadafy comments, I would imagine that they have a solid claim for political asylum. If Mr. Khadafy remains in power, the students would face severe consequences upon their return to Libya. There is no doubt that Mr. Khadafy’s regime tortures and murders political opponents. Further, given the Libyan Embassy’s attempt to rally Libyans in the U.S. to Mr. Khadafy’s defense, it is very likely that the Libyan government is aware of the students’ political opinions.
For those Libyans not mentioned in newspapers, or who were not contacted by the Embassy about attending the pro-Khadafy rally, an asylum claim might be more difficult. Generalized strife in a person’s home country–in and of itself–is usually not sufficient to qualify for asylum. Whether a particular individual qualifies for asylum would depend on his or her personal circumstances.
Finally, the situation in Libya is very fluid. Perhaps Mr. Khadafy will be gone soon (we can only hope), but perhaps not. As the situation on the ground continues to evolve, so too will the possibility for asylum for Libyans in the U.S.
Originally published on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.