Tag Archives: UNHCR

11 Dead, 34 Missing in Gulf of Aden – Smugglers Forced Passengers Into Sea

The UNHCR reported on 10 February that at least 11 persons drowned and 34 are missing after their boat capsized in the Gulf of Aden. The boat left Somalia for Yemen on 4 February, became disabled and drifted, and then capsized on 8 February in bad weather.  UNHCR reported that “[s]hocking details came to light [on 9 February] as survivors recounted to local authorities and our partners how smugglers forced 22 passengers overboard soon after the engine failed. … So far, 11 bodies have been recovered on beaches around the village of Ceelaayo some 30 kilometers west of Bossaso. Locals also found 13 survivors, including two women and a teenage boy and girl….”

This latest disaster occurs after an almost 100% increase in the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants crossing the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea from Africa to Yemen in 2011 compared to 2010.  103,000 migrants are estimated to have made the sea crossing in 2011 compared to an estimated 53,000 in 2010.  130 persons are known to have drowned in 2011.

Click here for UNHCR report.

Click here for my last post on the 2011 statistics.

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Filed under Gulf of Aden, News, Somalia, UNHCR, Yemen

Mare Deserto: RSI documentary about the failure to rescue and subsequent deaths of 60 migrants in the Mediterranean in March 2011

RSI LA1, the Swiss Italian-language television network, last month broadcasted a one hour documentary,  Mare deserto , produced by Emiliano Bos and Paul Nicol.  The documentary is in Italian.  It investigates the events that occurred between 25 March and 10 April 2011 when a disabled migrant boat attempting to travel from Libya to Italy drifted for days during which time approximately 60 persons died.  Survivors from the migrant boat reported that at various times military ships and helicopters ignored their requests for assistance.  The producers located and interviewed 9 of the known survivors in Italy, Tunisia and Norway.

Click here or here for a link to the documentary.  (IT)

Click here and here for some of my previous posts on the incident and the ongoing PACE investigation into the incident.

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Filed under Council of Europe, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, Reports, UNHCR

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: Record Number of Refugees and Migrants Cross to Yemen in 2011

The UNHCR reports that there has been an almost 100% increase in the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants who crossed the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea from Africa to Yemen in 2011 compared to 2010.  103,000 migrants are estimated to have made the sea crossing in 2011 compared to an estimated 53,000 in 2010.  130 persons are known to have drowned.  Ethiopians now make up the largest nationality making the voyage, accounting for about 75% of the total.  Prior to 2009 Somalis were the largest group.

Click here (EN), here (EN) and here (FR) for UNHCR statements.

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Filed under Data / Stats, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gulf of Aden, News, Somalia, UNHCR, Yemen

Rescued Somali Asylum Seekers in Malta Describe Dangerous Conditions in Libya

The first group of rescued migrants for 2012 arrived in Malta on 15 January after being rescued by an Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat and an Italian cargo ship.  The 68 rescued migrants are Somali asylum seekers and had left Libya four days earlier.  Another boat carrying 72 migrants was rescued by the Italian coastguard on the 13th.  This boat is also believed to have departed from Libya.  UNHCR officials have interviewed the asylum seekers in Malta: “The new arrivals confirmed to UNHCR that the situation in Libya is still not stable and that it is particularly precarious for Sub-Saharan nationals. One Somali woman told UNHCR that they were afraid to go outside the house. Some even described the situation in parts of Libya as being similar to the lawlessness of Somalia. They explained that smugglers provided them with the only possible way out at this point.”  The Times of Malta reported that two of the asylum seekers said “they paid armed Libyan militiamen $400 each to facilitate their crossing of the Mediterranean.”

Click here, here, and here for articles.

Click here (IT) for article.

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ICMC Europe Report: “MAYDAY! Strengthening responses of assistance and protection to boat people and other migrants arriving in Southern Europe”

ICMC has released a 150+ page report entitled “MAYDAY! Strengthening responses of assistance and protection to boat people and other migrants arriving in Southern Europe.”  I have just started reading the report and may post some additional excerpts in the coming days.  Here is an excerpt from the Foreword and Introduction:

“In the first months of 2011 alone, more than 2,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea. More than 2,500 unaccompanied children arrived just on Italian shores. Tragic, chronic figures like these are urgent and continuous reminders of the need for another approach to human mobility that goes far beyond simple enforcement and fundamentally recognises the rights to life and protection for all.

It is not so much the arrivals of migrants and refugees that should be put to question, but rather the response mechanisms which very often fail as much in the fields of prevention and rescue as in the processes deciding where and how people are permitted to move, disembark, stay or return. Protection today is provided only for a limited number of boat people who need it, and governed by systems of access and identification that are far too limited. Correct identification, differentiation and referral systems are needed for all migrants in distress and from the very moment of their arrival, not only because they are human beings, but also because such approaches reflect the quality of our societies….”

Scope of this report – Gathering the results of nearly a half thousand surveys of first responders and other actors as well as the migrants themselves, this report examines what happens—or does not happen— to identify migrants in need of protection and assistance upon their arrival in Europe. In particular, it sheds light on the mechanisms developed, and gaps both in practice and in policy in responses to boat people and other migrants arriving in mixed migratory movements in four countries at Europe’s Southern door: Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain.

Although rescue at sea at one end and voluntary or enforcement-related return at the other are highly relevant topics and areas of research per se, DRIVE has focused on the situation of migrants at point of arrival. As such, the project and this report look at first responses in the phase immediately upon and surrounding arrival, and then to identification, differentiation and referral mechanisms for legal protection and/or further assistance in subsequent phases following arrival.

The principal focus of the project was on boat arrivals, but the shift in routes in Greece during the project period and the sharp increase in land border crossings there compelled reflection upon responses to migrants crossing land borders as well as those arriving by sea. While the project maintained its focus on arrivals by sea, one of its findings is that most of the laws, policies, procedures and responses applicable to boat people pertain equally to those arriving across land borders—in particular, steps on identification, differentiation and referral for protection and assistance.

The DRIVE project set out to promote protection of the rights of all migrants in these situations, especially the most vulnerable, regardless of their immigration status. Nevertheless, the project has highlighted four groups whose members have come to be defined to a varying extent as having specific rights or special needs under international and European legal instruments: asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, children, and victims of torture. It merits emphasising however, that other migrants also have special needs because of particular vulnerabilities,- notably people with serious health problems, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children and persons who have been subjected to or witnessed torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence.

Structure of this report – The report is composed of four main parts, plus annexes:

Part 1: Building policy responses to boat people and others arriving in mixed migration flows – Within this first part, Chapter 1 provides a brief history of the policy evolution and the organizations involved in the area of mixed migration. Chapter 2 gives an overview of legal obligations relating to the rights of the migrants composing these arrivals. The third chapter provides an analysis of the EU policy and legal framework with regards to mixed migration arrivals at its borders.

Part 2: A focus on post-arrival identification, differentiation and referral for assistance and protection – The first chapter explains what is meant and implied by “identification, differentiation and referral”in mixed migration contexts, the concept at the core of the DRIVE study. The second chapter seeks to focus on the legal obligations of member states to conduct identification of people in need of protection at the border, with in-depth legal analysis of the rights and state obligations that international and EU law articulate for asylum seekers, children, and victims of human trafficking and torture.

Part 3: What happens to people arriving irregularly by boat in Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain? – The first chapter gives a snapshot of the trends and figures of arrivals in the Mediterranean region. In Chapter 2, the summaries of the four country reports (each presented in its entirety in an annex) then provide a look at the procedures and practices on the ground for first reception, identification and referral. The third chapter presents the results of the extensive migrants surveys that the DRIVE project conducted in the four countries in an effort to give voice to the beneficiaries themselves. Chapter 4 concludes with a comparative analysis identifying the main gaps and challenges in those countries.

Part 4: Conclusions and recommendations – The focus on the four countries enabled consideration of practices and procedures which could either improve the quality of the process or prevent people from accessing protection and assistance. Recommendations therefore seek to address how identification, differentiation and referral can be improved in the Mediterranean, including how the international and European legal and policy framework can address this question in a more comprehensive manner.

Annexes: Detailed mapping of the situation in Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain are attached in the annexes, as well as a presentation of some relevant tools and guidelines….”

Click here for Report.

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Filed under Analysis, Data / Stats, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mediterranean, Reports, Spain

EJML Article, B Nascimbene and A Di Pascale: “The ‘Arab Spring’ and the Extraordinary Influx of People who Arrived in Italy from North Africa”

The latest edition of the European Journal of Migration and Law, Volume 13, Number 4, contains an article by Bruno Nascimbene, Professor of European Union Law, Faculty of Law, University of Milan, and Alessia Di Pascale, Research Fellow, European Union Law, Faculty of Law, University of Milan, entitled “The ‘Arab Spring’ and the Extraordinary Influx of People who Arrived in Italy from North Africa”.

Abstract: “The ‘Arab spring’ which spread in early 2011 and the consequent exceptional influx of people that arrived on the Italian coasts from North Africa put the national reception and asylum systems under particular pressure, also raising the debate on the status to be attributed to these people. Faced with a situation out of the ordinary, Italy immediately addressed a request for help to the European Union, which has revealed the difference of views and mistrust existing between Member States in relation to these issues. This episode also calls into question the scope and effectiveness of the EU migration management framework, particularly in case of strong and unexpected pressure, and its implementation in a true spirit of solidarity.”

Click here for link.  (Subscription or payment required.)

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NATO Reportedly Agrees to Provide Additional Information to PACE Regarding Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean

The PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, in connection with the preparation of a report by Ms Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) on the deaths of boat people who have died in the Mediterranean, conducted a hearing in Paris on 29 November.  NATO officials who met with Ms Strik in Brussels before attended the hearing reportedly agreed to provide additional information, which might include satellite imagery, to the PACE Committee.

From PACE Press Statement, 30 November 2011:  “‘With 1971 boatpeople having perished in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach European soil from North Africa, the year 2011 sets a sad record as the deadliest year for boatpeople,’ PACE rapporteur Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) said at the end of a hearing on this issue, organised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Migration Committee.  ‘Never before the Mediterranean Sea has been as closely monitored as this year because of the war in Libya and still more boat people than ever perished or disappeared,’ the rapporteur added.  ‘Is there a common understanding of a “distress situation”? Is it clear which legal framework is applicable and by whom? Do all ships, even warships, have to proceed with rescue operations even if they are situated beyond established search and rescue zones? Where does legal responsibility start and where does political responsibility end? These are some of the issues we are currently trying to clarify,’ she said.  Mrs Strik’s report will focus on an incident reported in March this year, during which 63 boat people escaping from Libya died after their appeals for rescue had allegedly been ignored. ‘The testimonies of survivors of this incident are coherent, but we have to continue to collect more data and information on who was when and where in the area and we now expect Nato and the EU to provide us with satellite imagery and other relevant information,’ she concluded.”

Click here, here, here, and here for articles.

Click here for PACE Press Statement.

Click here for my last post on the topic.

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Maltese Constitutional Court Awards Compensation to 2 Somalis Forcibly Repatriated to Libya in 2004

From the Times of Malta:  “Two Somali men have been awarded compensation of €10,000 each after the Constitutional Court found that they were forcibly repatriated to Libya from Malta and had not been given the opportunity for asylum.  …  [After fleeing Libya by boat t]heir boat was intercepted by a Maltese patrol boat and they were brought to Malta.  Upon their arrival they were taken to the Police Headquarters. Neither of them was given the opportunity to apply for asylum in Malta nor were they assisted by an interpreter. Twenty days later the two men, together with four other illegal immigrants were taken, handcuffed, to the airport and were forcibly sent back to Libya.  Both men asked to speak to the UNHCR representative in Malta but their request was refused.  Upon their arrival in Libya they were arrested, beaten and tortured while they were kept in prison for a week. They were transferred to another prison and, three months later, they were taken to court where they were tried without an interpreter.  The men were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. During their time in prison they were again beaten and tortured. …  The case was instituted by Abdul Hakim Hassan Abdulle and Kasin Ibrahim Nur after they managed to endure torture in a Libyan jail and abandonment in the Sahara Desert before returning to Malta….  In their constitutional application the men claimed that their right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment had been violated by the fact that they had been forcibly repatriated to a country which was known to practise torture. They further claimed that their fundamental human right to an effective remedy had been violated as Malta had not allowed them to apply for asylum. Mr Justice Pace pointed out that in terms of law, an immigrant had to be informed of his right to seek asylum in Malta in a language he understood. This had not been done in this case….”

Thanks to Dr Neil Fazon (Aditus.org.mt) for pointing this out and for providing a copy of the Court’s decision.

Click here for article.

Click on this link Abdul Hakim et vs MJHA et for decision (Maltese).

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Filed under Judicial, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News

PACE to Conduct Hearing: “Lives Lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is Responsible?” (Paris, 29 Nov)

The PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, in connection with the preparation of a report by Ms Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) on the deaths of boat people who have died in the Mediterranean, will conduct a hearing in Paris on 29 November.  Ms Strik was appointed in June 2011 by the PACE Committee as Rapporteur to prepare a report on the deaths of boat people who have died in the Mediterranean since January 2011.

“The hearing will look at the loss of human life at sea, it will examine the right of families to receive information on the victims, and it will consider the rules applicable under international law and maritime law relevant to rescue at sea. The hearing will also examine international co-ordination regarding interception and rescue at sea, as well as the role of the national authorities, NATO and FRONTEX.  The participants include representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, FRONTEX, the Italian Council for Refugees, and the International Institute of Humanitarian Law.”

The hearing seems to be open only to members of the press and will be held at the Council of Europe, 55 avenue Kléber, 75016 PARIS (Metro: Boissière).

Click here and here for more information.

Click here for my last post on this topic.

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Malta Rejects UNHCR Suggestion that Malta Failed to Carry Out SAR Obligations

The Times of Malta reports that the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) and Maltese SAR authorities have rejected what they characterised as the “impression conveyed” by a UNHCR spokesperson that “Maltese SAR authorities abdicated from their responsibilities and did not cooperate with the relevant Italian authorities” in connection with the search for and subsequent rescue of 44 migrants on board a disabled boat on 9-10 November.  The migrants were rescued by the Italian Navy ship Foscari and transported to Sicily, not to Lampedusa or Malta which were the two closest ports.

The AFM statement reported by the Times of Malta outlines in detail the Maltese response to the distress call from the migrant boat and Malta and Frontex’s participation in the air and sea search.  The AFM statement said that “[t]he decision for the Italian Navy vessel Foscari to take the rescued migrants to an Italian port in Sicily was the result of Italian insistence that Lampedusa does not represent a place of safety for the disembarkation of migrants, despite it being a mere four hours from the position where the persons were rescued.  Under the relevant legal regime applicable with the Malta SRR, the persons should have been disembarked in Lampedusa which, despite declarations to the contrary, represented the nearest place of safety.”

Click here for article.

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Chatham House Briefing Paper: Responding to Migration from Complex Humanitarian Emergencies: Lessons Learned from Libya

A new Chatham House Briefing Paper by Dr Khalid Koser entitled “Responding to Migration from Complex Humanitarian Emergencies: Lessons Learned from Libya” has been released.

Summary:

  • At its peak during the Libyan conflict, migration to Tunisia and Egypt was massive, even in the context of a region where large-scale migration has become the norm.
  • In the case of Libya, at least five categories of migration can be distinguished: evacuating migrant workers, Libyan nationals moving into Egypt and Tunisia, ‘boat people’ arriving in the EU, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and asylum-seekers and refugees.
  • The international policy response in Libya was hampered by restricted access. IDPs therefore received limited assistance and protection, and migrant workers, especially from sub-Saharan Africa, experienced harassment and abuse.
  • The policy response in neighbouring states, especially Egypt and Tunisia, was far more robust.
  • The political response in the EU to the relatively small proportion of migrants who reached Europe is considered by many commentators to have been disproportionate.
  • The crisis has highlighted a gap in the international regime for protecting IDPs, and in particular migrant workers. It has also called into question the relevance to modern humanitarian crises of a dated refugee definition. More positively, the response has demonstrated how international agencies can cooperate, and there has been unprecedented cooperation between IOM and UNHCR to respond to ‘mixed flows’ from Libya.
  • Responsibility for managing migration now falls to the new government in Libya.

Click here for paper.

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Filed under Analysis, European Union, Libya, Mediterranean, UNHCR

Migrant Boat Rescued by Italian Navy – Migrants to be Transferred to Sicily

The Italian Navy vessel Foscari rescued 44 migrants last night from a disabled boat that is believed to have departed from Libya about 4 days ago.  Maltese media reported that the Italians wanted to disembark the rescued migrants in Malta due to the earlier decision of Italian authorities to close Lampedusa for search and rescue purposes.  However Adnkronos news is reporting that the Foscari is taking the rescued migrants to Augusta, Sicily.

The first satellite phone distress call from the migrant boat was reportedly made when the boat was located within the Libyan SAR.  The migrant boat was finally sighted by an Italian fishing boat last night within the Maltese SAR.  The Italian Navy vessel Foscari rescued the migrants.  A Somali woman and her newborn infant who was born on the migrant boat were flown by helicopter to Lampedusa for medical care.  The remaining 42 rescued persons will now apparently be disembarked in Augusta some time tomorrow.  16 August was the last time a migrant boat reached Italy from Libya.

UNHCR issued a statement saying it was “grateful that the Italian navy took this initiative despite the fact that the boat was in Maltese search and rescue waters.”

Click here (EN), here (EN), here (IT), here (IT), and here (IT) for articles.

Click here for UNHCR statement.

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Expert Meeting on Asylum Seekers and Migrants in Distress at Sea Begins in Djibouti

From an IOM press statement:

“IOM is taking part in a three-day meeting organized by UNHCR and the Government of Djibouti on how best to respond to the needs of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees who find themselves in situations of distress at sea. The meeting, which opens today [8 November] in Djibouti, brings together government representatives and academics alongside experts from UNHCR, IOM, the International Maritime Organization, the ICRC and IFRC….

‘Despite the tightening of existing Conventions to reinforce the global Search and Rescue regime, gaps remain when it comes to putting these principles into practice,’ says IOM’s Irena Vojackova-Sollorano. ‘Cooperative approaches that bring together governments, the shipping industry, NGOs and international organizations are therefore urgently needed if we are to ensure the safety and protection of all people rescued at sea.’…”

Click here for full press statement.

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Trapped Migrants Face Increasing Violence at Sidi Bilal Near Tripoli

From Refugees International, 7 October:  “More than 600 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are effectively stranded at a port just outside the Libyan capital, and have been left to fend for themselves by Libyan authorities. Despite repeated attacks, harassment, and arbitrary arrests by Libyan gangs over the course of four months, they have received no protection from the National Transitional Council (NTC). Refugees International calls on the NTC and all local authorities – including the civilian councils in Janzour and Tripoli, and the Tripoli Military Council – to intervene immediately to protect the population at Sidi Bilal port and ensure their safe relocation to a temporary site.  ‘The men in these camps are routinely harassed and accused of being pro-Gaddafi mercenaries, the women are targets of sexual abuse. All face intimidation by armed Libyan thugs who drive into the port at night firing guns into the air,’ said Matt Pennington, an advocate for Refugees International currently in Libya. ‘Of course, many migrants told us they don’t really want to leave Libya – since they have nothing to return to in their home countries. But even for those who want to stay in Libya, their situation is becoming intolerable.’  …  So far, the UN World Food Programme has delivered one food drop to the imperilled migrants, while the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration have been attempting to negotiate safe relocation for those who want to stay and repatriation for those who want to return home. But what the population of Sidi Bilal most urgently needs is protection, and Libyan and UN authorities must act swiftly to provide it.”

Click here for full statement.

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Filed under Libya, Mediterranean, Reports, Statements, UNHCR