Help 200,000+ people fleeing violence in Libya

by US Association for UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency)
A young boy plays in a special tent run by UNHCR
A young boy plays in a special tent run by UNHCR

CHOUCHA CAMP, Tunisia, January 17 (UNHCR)  The UN Refugee Agency has helped resettle a group of 33 unaccompanied children who had spent months living in a special camp set up in Tunisia to provide shelter for people fleeing last year's political turmoil in neighboring Libya. 

The children were among 90 who arrived unaccompanied from Libya during 2011. Some were already without parents when they first arrived in Libya; others lost their parents or became separated from them subsequently. Most are from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia or Eritrea.

They had been staying in Tunisia's Choucha camp, which is home to 3,400 refugees. The unaccompanied children have relied on help from friends and relatives, as well as local and international aid workers. In total, 39 of these 90 children have now been resettled  most to Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

"As they had formed strong bonds among each other, the departure has been painful for many of them not least those still awaiting resettlement," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva. "Life at Choucha camp remains difficult, with windswept conditions and bitter cold. UNHCR and its partners hope that solutions can quickly be found for the unaccompanied children who remain there as well as for the other refugees who await solutions."

UNHCR provides assistance at Choucha, works with the children and their communities to establish the best interests of each child, advocates for resettlement and submits cases to resettlement countries. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) provides child-friendly orientation and arranges transportation to new homes. It arranged the weekend flight to Norway.

Edwards stressed that UNHCR considers resettlement to be the only viable option for the majority of recognized refugees who fled Libya to Tunisia and Egypt last year. Both countries allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants to stay temporarily before being repatriated in a joint IOM-UNHCR operation. UNHCR and IOM have called upon states, especially European countries, to offer more resettlement places for the remaining refugees at the borders of Egypt and Tunisia.

UNHCR has completed refugee status determination for all 2,500 applicants in Choucha camp and 2,200 have been recognized as refugees. Together, with an additional 800 people who were recognized as refugees in Libya before the unrest of 2011, more than 3,000 refugees have been submitted for resettlement from the camp.

Meanwhile at Egypt's Saloum border crossing with Libya, around 1,400 people have been submitted for resettlement out of 1,830 there.

Resettlement referrals for both Choucha and Saloum have been submitted and accepted by Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and the United States. Most recently, Germany, New Zealand and Spain have joined the resettlement effort by planning to send selection missions to the two camps.

UNHCR is calling on resettlement countries to expedite decisions on submissions. Currently only one out of five refugees submitted has been accepted, and only one out of six, or 731 refugees, has actually departed. UNHCR's emergency transit centers in Romania and Slovakia are providing crucial additional space for refugees to be interviewed for onward resettlement from both Tunisia and Egypt, notably to the United States and the Netherlands.


UNHCR and partners in Libya continue to be concerned about the situation of third country nationals, including refugees. UNHCR and IOM have been working closely with the National Transitional Council Stabilization Team to try to improve the protection situation for refugees and migrants. The Stabilization Team is already coordinating with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior to put into place a strategy that includes public messages to the general public, temporary documentation for migrants and identification of shelter and other services for vulnerable migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees.

UNHCR staff have carried out a series of field visits to areas where refugees and asylum-seekers are living in Tripoli. UNHCR met with a group of 60 Sudanese from Darfur, some of whom were injured when they were caught up in the conflict, but otherwise reporting stable relations with the local community. A group of Eritreans said that two of their compatriots died in cross fire during the conflict in Sabha. Since UNHCR and IOM have restored their respective hotline services in the Tripoli area, large numbers of calls have been received from refugees and migrants reporting numerous protection incidents, including detention and need for food assistance.

UNHCR has been contacted by the local military council in Zintan, Nafussa mountains, asking us to identify solutions for a group of third country nationals, reportedly Somalis. UNHCR has also heard from a group of Somalis fleeing the Sabha area currently surrounded by NTC forces. IOM and UNHCR together with an implementing partner are organizing evacuation of this group to Tripoli.

UNHCR has also made a number of visits to areas where Libyans are displaced. Over a thousand people from the village of Tewergha (30 km south of Bani Walid) are living in three displacement settlements in the Tripoli suburbs. They say their homes and schools had been destroyed. In addition, around 6000 people from Tarhona (55 km south-east of Tripoli) are living in three different sites in the suburbs of Tripoli and a number of schools. Another 6000 people from Bani Walid fled the conflict to three locations between 30 and 60 km from Bani Walid.

Meanwhile in the east of the country Libyan Aid has reported that there are still over 50,000 displaced, just under half in Benghazi, although initial returns are reported in a number of towns, such as Ajdabiya. Only a small number of those displaced from Brega have returned home so far, stating lack of electricity, medical services and presence of unexploded ordinances as the main barriers to return. UNHCR's partner, ACTED is undertaking an assessment of shelter damage in eastern Libya and will distribute UNHCR shelter items and cooking kits to hundreds of families from Brega, Ras Lanouf, Zlitan and other cities.

Trucks carrying food aid into Libya
Trucks carrying food aid into Libya

25 July 2011 – 

United Nations humanitarian agencies said today that they have identified areas of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, where residents urgently need humanitarian assistance, including medical treatment for injuries caused by the ongoing conflict in the North African country.

“Although the mission observed aspects of normalcy in Tripoli, members identified pockets of vulnerability where people need urgent humanitarian assistance,” said the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Laurence Hart, in a press release following the conclusion of the mission on Saturday.

The assessment mission, the fourth to Tripoli since the beginning of the crisis, was intended to further look into the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable groups, and to ensure that they received assistance. The mission also assessed the humanitarian impact of the conflict on civilians.

The health sector is under strain, having lost thousands of foreign workers at the beginning of the conflict, according to the press release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Medical supplies, including vaccines, are rapidly running low, and the mission received reports of heavy psychosocial impact of the conflict, mainly on children and women.

Although basic food items are available in the markets, prices are rising and there are concerns over the sustainability of supplies into the city especially as the holy month of Ramadan approaches, if the conflict persists.

Outside Tripoli, the team also visited Al-Khoms and Zletan, east of Tripoli and close to the frontline, as well as Gharyan, in the Western Mountains area. All those towns have seen a significant influx of IDPs.

Fuel shortages have become a pressing problem, and the UN team observed long queues at gas stations, some of which had closed down. A fuel consumption quota system is now in place since, and Libyan oil trade experts warned that fuel stocks could run out in two weeks. Public transport costs have tripled, making access to services, including hospitals, challenging.

Reduced availability of cash is also a serious concern because many Libyans withdrew their savings from banks at the beginning of the crisis. Banks are restricting cash withdrawals for individual account holders.

The mission, which was made up of representatives from OCHA, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN World Food Programme (WFP), UN World Health Organization (WHO), as well as staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), reported that water is still available, but people are experiencing significant power cuts.

Libya has been engulfed by fighting since a pro-democracy movement opposed to the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi emerged in February following similar protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries across North Africa and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Libya, Abdel-Elah Al-Khatib, today held talks in the city of Benghazi with members of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) in his continuing efforts to find a political solution, the office of the spokesperson of the Secretary-General said in a note to reporters. Mr. Khatib is expected to visit Tripoli tomorrow for further discussions with officials there.

Source: UN News Center


First came the foreign workers -- now refugees -- who left everything to return to their home countries of Egypt, Tunisia, Bangladesh, and elsewhere out of fear for their lives. Now, UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) faces a new challenge: aiding Libyans within their own borders who are abandoning their homes to seek safety in other areas of their country.

New arrivals at the Egyptian-Libyan border tell UNHCR that up to 100,000 Libyans are displaced in the east of the country, forced to take shelter in homes, schools and university halls because their homes have been damaged and their families’ lives are at risk.

Libya-Aid-emergency-refugees  Fearing reprisal attacks by pro-government supporters, people are afraid to go out after four in the afternoon. Some have seen their homes completely destroyed. With mobile phone networks in eastern Libya down since Thursday, they are unable to contact their friends and families for help.

One man returned to his home in Libya over the weekend to find four rockets had flattened his home, forcing him to once again seek refuge in Egypt.

Providing humanitarian assistance to the displaced is very challenging and dangerous, but UNHCR is sending its first truckloads of aid, including 5,000 blankets and 5,000 sleeping mats, on a World Food Program convoy to opposition-held Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city.

With shortages of medical supplies and basic commodities in the east and prices having risen dramatically, UNHCR needs your help today to bring these lifesaving items to those caught in the middle of this international crisis.

After evacuating tens of thousands of migrant workers, we are facing a new challenge: Aiding those who are still within Libyan borders.

Please, help us by spreading the word. Forward this message to your friends; or click here learn more and to post this update on Facebook and Twitter.



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Organization Information

US Association for UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency)

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Lauren Meling
Washington, DC United States

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