Fears Grow over Rising Numbers of Stranded Migrants Without Food and Water in Sebha as Fighting Intensifies

Posted: 
09/12/11

An estimated 3,000 migrants are now thought to be seeking refuge at
an IOM transit centre as fighting around the Libyan city of Sebha
continues.

However, IOM is deeply concerned over their welfare as the
transit centre, like the rest of Sebha, is fast running out of
food. There is also no running water or electricity.

The migrants, mostly Chadian but also including Somalis,
Eritreans, Nigerians, Nigeriens, Egyptians, Jordanians and
Pakistanis, began arriving at the IOM centre to seek refuge some
weeks ago. But numbers have increased significantly recently.

Chadian consular officials in Sebha told IOM that there was
heavy firing through the night on 11/12 September and that security
in the town was deteriorating rapidly.

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To accommodate the increasing numbers of migrants, IOM has
rented a compound adjacent to its transit centre.

"Although the second compound can provide additional space for
new arrivals, the scarcity of food and no running water is
extremely worrying. With the security situation worsening, the only
way to avoid a humanitarian disaster is to get the migrants out as
soon as possible," says IOM's Director of Operations and
Emergencies, Mohammed Abdiker.

With the fighting making an air evacuation impossible, IOM has
been working on carrying out a road evacuation as soon as a
humanitarian corridor out of Sebha can be established and final
logistical issues over fuel and transport are resolved.

Last week, the Organization called on warring parties to respect
international humanitarian law and ensure no harm comes to those
migrants taking refuge at the IOM centre.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 of 2,000 Sub-Saharan Africans
stranded at the northern Niger town of Dirkou after having fled
Libya recently are being evacuated by IOM in a convoy south to
Agadez.

An IOM transit centre in Dirkou close to the Niger-Libya border
with a capacity of 250 people is currently sheltering up to 400
migrants. The remaining migrants are living in the open in and
around Dirkou.

The 2,000 migrants, including 1,000 Nigerians as well as
Gambians, Senegalese, Togolese, Chadians, Ivorians, Ghanaians,
Mauritanians, Burkinabés and Malians have been stranded in
Dirkou for several weeks in desperate need of both humanitarian and
evacuation assistance.

IOM teams in Dirkou, the Niger Red Crescent and individual
volunteers have been providing the migrants with three meals a day,
water and basic health checks.

However, they stress the need for greater and more sustained
assistance as migrants are forced to wait in the town for not only
for available transport but also an escort to Agadez, the main town
in northern Niger.

A lack of fuel to operate the IOM-hired trucks travelling to
Agadez has been a major problem in recent weeks. Until the fall of
the Gaddafi regime, Dirkou's fuel supply came from nearby Libyan
towns and was affordable. For the past few weeks, there has been no
fuel available in and around the town. Fuel is now having to be
trucked in from Agadez, a minimum journey of three to four days and
is at significantly higher cost.

IOM staff in Dirkou say the Sub-Saharan Africans, particularly
Nigerians, have reported that they fled Libya now because of the
targeting of Africans. Some say they were being accused of being
mercenaries.

Nearly 79,000 African migrants have fled to Niger from Libya
since the start of the crisis, the vast majority of them
Nigerien.

For further information, please contact:

Jean Philippe Chauzy

Tel: +41 22 717 9361 / +41 79 285 4366

E-mail: "mailto:jpchauzy@iom.int">jpchauzy@iom.int

Jemini Pandya

Tel: +41 22 717 9486 / +41 79 217 3374

E-mail: "mailto:jpandya@iom.int">jpandya@iom.int 

or

Jumbe Omari Jumbe

Tel: +41 22 717 9405 / +41 79 812 77 34

E-mail: "mailto:jjumbe@iom.int">jjumbe@iom.int