Growing insecurity in Tripoli endangers displaced civilians and migrants as armed clashes enter second month
Geneva – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Tripoli and neighbouring areas.
According to IOM Libyas Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), there are now over 66,000 displaced individuals, approximately 13,310 families, from affected areas in Tripoli since the onset of the armed conflict on 4 April. The rapidly increasing displacement figures are worrying as fighting intensifies in the absence of a humanitarian ceasefire. DTMs Emergency Event Tracking, activated on 05 April, is helping to identify instances of displacement, as well as consolidating and disseminating vital information IOM uses to plan the broader humanitarian communitys response.
The situation is especially alarming for over 3,300 migrants, among them children and pregnant women.
“While our teams on the ground continue to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected populations, we recognize that more needs to be done from all sides to ensure the safety of civilians,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya Chief of Mission. “We are worried about the dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation in Tripoli and reiterate that there is an urgent need to end the detention of migrants in Libya and stop displacement.”
On 10 May, a migrant boat departing Zwara, Libya capsized off the Tunisian coast, and 59 lives were lost. This brings the death toll in the Central Mediterranean Route to 316 so far this year, and 502 for all Mediterranean Sea routes. Since the beginning of the clashes, 871 migrants have been returned to Libya and placed in detention, bringing the total number of migrants repatriated to Libya to 2,813 this year.
IOM is concerned about the return of migrants to an unsafe port and their placement in often overcrowded detention centres where conditions are not acceptable. While we provide health assistance, non-food items, emergency food assistance and Voluntary Humanitarian Return support to migrants wishing to return home, we reiterate that IOM cannot guarantee the protection of detained migrants and continues to call for an urgent end to detention.
Despite security challenges, IOM emergency interventions continue, in 11 detention centres within and near Tripoli; in locations for internally displaced families, and across Libya. Since 4 April 1,402 migrants have returned to 19 countries of origin with support from IOMs Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme.
The joint Rapid Response Mechanism launched by IOM, UNFPA, WFP and UNICEF, has reached so far 18,210 individuals with much-needed core relief items. Moreover, 2,511 migrants and internally displaced persons have been provided with health assistance including 58 hospital referrals.
IOM Tunisia reported that Fridays tragedy began about 60 kilometers from Tunisian waters 7 May, when a vessel carrying 75 migrants, mainly Bangladeshi nationals, made an attempt to reach Europe. During the night of 9 May, Tunisian fishermen were able to rescue 16 people from the overcrowded craft. Tunisian naval units continue to seek information on the voyage; to date only three bodies have been rescued. One of those victims has been identified.
Tunisian authorities took four survivors to Zarzis Hospital, where two remain in critical condition. Of the rescued, 14 are Bangladeshi (including two unaccompanied minors) one is Egyptian, one is Moroccan. Those not hospitalized have been hosted by the Tunisian Red Crescent.
A second rescue took place on Saturday, 11 May. Tunisian fishermen rescued sixty-nine migrants, including Moroccans, Eritreans, Somalis, Bangladeshi and an Egyptian. Among them, were four women and at least 25 minors, including children aged three to seven years.
Those 69 rescued migrants, since transferred to Sfax, are thought to have left Libya on 7 May, at the same time those on the shipwrecked boat departed.
IOM teams mobilized to provide medical, psycho-social and food assistance to survivors. “It is essential to put in place efficient mechanisms to respond to humanitarian emergencies, not the least of which are attempts of irregular crossings on the Mediterranean,” said Lorena Lando, Head of IOM mission to Tunisia. “We must act now and together,” she added.
From 9-12 May, the Tunisian coastguard and naval units conducted prevention operations that thwarted attempts at irregular crossings from Sfax, Sousse, Monastir, Bizerte and Tunis, with more than 100 migrants at the beginning of the season.