Tag Archives: Tripoli

UNHCR: “Mediterranean takes record as most deadly stretch of water for refugees and migrants in 2011”

Full Text of UNHCR Briefing Note, 31 January:

“This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Sybella Wilkes – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 31 January 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

According to UNHCR estimates, more than 1,500 people drowned or went missing while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe in 2011. This makes 2011 the deadliest year for this region since UNHCR started to record these statistics in 2006. The previous high was in 2007 when 630 people were reported dead or missing.

Last year is also a record in terms of the massive number of arrivals in Europe via the Mediterranean, with more than 58,000 people arriving. The previous high was in 2008 when 54,000 people reached Greece, Italy and Malta. During 2009 and 2010, border control measures sharply reduced arrivals in Europe. The frequency of boat arrivals increased in early 2011 as the regimes in Tunisia and Libya collapsed.

Our teams in Greece, Italy, Libya and Malta, warn that the actual number of deaths at sea may be even higher. Our estimates are based on interviews with people who reached Europe on boats, telephone calls and e-mails from relatives, as well as reports from Libya and Tunisia from survivors whose boats either sank or were in distress in the early stages of the journey.

Survivors told UNHCR staff harrowing stories of being forced onboard by armed guards, particularly during April and May in Libya. The actual journey took place on unseaworthy vessels with refugee and migrant passengers often forced into having to skipper boats themselves. In addition, some survivors told UNHCR that fellow passengers beat and tortured them. Judicial investigations are ongoing in Italy following these reports.

The majority of last year’s arrivals by sea landed in Italy (56,000, of whom 28,000 were Tunisian) while Malta and Greece received 1,574 and 1,030 respectively. The vast majority arrived in the first half of the year. Most were migrants, not asylum-seekers. Only three boats landed from mid-August to the end of the year. In addition, according to Greek government figures, some 55,000 irregular migrants crossed the Greek-Turkish land border at Evros.

We are disturbed that since the beginning of 2012, despite high seas and poor weather conditions, three boats have attempted this perilous journey from Libya, with one going missing at sea. This boat, carrying at least 55 people raised the alarm on 14 January, warning of engine failure. Libyan coast guards informed UNHCR that 15 dead bodies, all identified as Somali, were found washed up on the beaches last week, including 12 women, two men and a baby girl. On Sunday, three more bodies were recovered. It was confirmed later that all those that perished were Somali residents of the makeshift site in Tripoli known as the Railway Project.

The other two boats that made it to Malta and Italy in January required rescuing. The first rescue of 72 Somali nationals by the Italian coast guard took place on 13 January. Those rescued included a pregnant woman and 29 children.

The second boat was rescued by the Maltese Armed Forces on 15 January with the support of the US Navy and a commercial vessel. In total 68 people were rescued from a dinghy found drifting some 56 nautical miles from Malta. A baby girl was born on one of the rescue vessels. Another woman reported a miscarriage during the voyage.

UNHCR welcomes the ongoing efforts of the Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities to rescue boats in distress in the Mediterranean. We renew our call to all shipmasters in the Mediterranean, one of the busiest stretches of water in the world, to remain vigilant and to carry out their duty of rescuing vessels in distress.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

In Rome: Laura Boldrini on mobile +39 33 55 403 194

In Valetta: Fabrizio Ellul on mobile +356 99 69 0081

In Geneva: Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38”

Click here for link to statement.

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Filed under Data / Stats, European Union, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Statements, Tunisia, UNHCR

UNHCR: Sub-Saharan Africans Targeted in Libya; 2 IOM Ships Evacuate Migrants from Tripoli

UNHCR said Friday that reports are emerging from Tripoli that “people being targeted because of their colour as the city fell to rebel forces”; UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres called for sub-Saharan Africans to be protected.  “The High Commissioner has urged restraint from rebel forces and Libyan civilians. ‘We have seen at earlier stages in this crisis that such people, Africans especially, can be particularly vulnerable to hostility or acts of vengeance,’ he said.  ‘It is crucial that humanitarian law prevails through these climactic moments and that foreigners – including refugees and migrant workers – are being fully and properly protected from harm,’ he stressed.”

IOM has chartered ships in order to evacuate migrants from Tripoli to Benghazi.  According to IOM, 263 people were evacuated from Tripoli on Thursday night.  “Among those evacuated were Egyptians, Lebanese, Algerians, Filipinos, Americans, Swiss, Lebanese, Italians, Indians, Sudanese, a German, a Canadian and an Iraqi.”  A second IOM-chartered ship, probably the Fehim Bay (which according to MarineTraffic.com is currently a Moldovan flagged ship), was scheduled to evacuate a larger group of migrants on Saturday.  According to AIS tracking information, the ship as of Sunday morning is en route to Benghazi.  IOM reported that “the second evacuation operation will aim to assist groups of Bangladeshi, Chinese, Filipino, Indian and Egyptian migrants.”

From IOM statements: “IOM staff in Tripoli say that getting migrants scattered across [Tripoli] to the port is the single most challenging issue of the operation.  Continued fighting in parts of the city, the many checkpoints and sniper fire represent the main obstacles to movement within the city as well as lack of fuel.  ‘Movement is extremely slow as well as dangerous. Crossing checkpoints manned by different groups with different demands is very challenging,’ says IOM Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Pasquale Lupoli. ‘And then there are snipers.’  Although IOM managed to get the 263 migrants to the port through arrangements with some concerned embassies and other parties, the Organization remains deeply concerned that migrants who want and need evacuation assistance may not be able to get it because they cannot get to the port. Some, such as Sub-Saharan Africans, are largely on the outskirts of Tripoli and far from the port vicinity.”

Click here for UNHCR press statement.

Click here and here for IOM press statements.

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Libya: Because of NATO Aggression, We Cannot Be Guards of Europe

From an AP story about the sinking of the migrant boat that left Tripoli last week, killing hundreds of persons:

“… International agencies say some recent migrants report being forced onto dangerously packed ships at gunpoint by Libyan soldiers. A spokesman for Moammar Gadhafi suggested that increased illegal immigration was the price European nations would pay for their military and political support of the rebels trying to topple Libya’s strongman. ‘Because of the NATO aggression against our country and because our coastal border guard is being hit daily … we are unable to deal with this situation and that is why Europe is being flooded with illegal immigration,’ government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said. ‘We cannot be the guards of Europe at this moment.’…

The U.N. said migrants’ boats started leaving Libya for Europe again on March 25, the day NATO took over military operations. About 14,800 since have made the gruelling journey across the Mediterranean in rickety ships run by smugglers who rarely provide enough food and water. At least 800 people had been lost at sea in three boat sinkings before the latest ship went down with 600 aboard off Tripoli on Friday, the U.N. said.  Five boats carrying 2,400 people have arrived in recent days on the Italian island of Lampedusa, the closest European point to Libya. Every one of those boats needed to be rescued by the Italian coast guard and police, the U.N. said.

‘We know that the people running the boats are smugglers. But obviously you cannot have over 2,000 people leaving in a few short days without the government knowing and allowing it,’ U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Sybella Wilkes said. ‘That port of Tripoli is under government control.’…”

Click here for full text of article.

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Filed under European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, UNHCR