Concerns escalate about civilians trapped by violence in Libya
Trying to get home
A transit center set up in Tunisia at the Ras Adjir border crossing has become saturated with people who fled the crisis in Libya -- many of them foreign workers who are trying to make their way home. As the arrivals outpace the departures, the IRC is launching sanitation and shelter services. Chris de Bode with our partner SV shared these photos from the border.
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March 8, 2011 —The International Rescue Committee is deeply concerned about the security and humanitarian situation for civilians in violence-torn western regions of Libya, as fighting intensifies between pro-government and opposition forces.
“There is currently no way to deliver humanitarian aid to Libyan civilians and foreign nationals in and around cities consumed by violence and there’s little information about their conditions,” says the IRC’s Emergency Response Team leader Alan Manski, who is in Ras Ajdir on the Tunisia-Libya border.
The IRC team in Tunisia and another IRC team heading into eastern Libya from Egypt are poised to aid violence-affected communities within Libya if they can gain access. At the same time, they are putting humanitarian contingency plans in place should a deterioration of violence lead to large influxes of people into Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the region.
More than 200,000 people have poured into neighboring countries since the crisis in Libya erupted last month—nearly all of them foreigners who had been working in Libya.
Repatriation out of Tunisia was slow at first, leading to overcrowding and poor sanitation conditions at the transit camp in Ras Adjir. But the pace of arrivals has declined while departures have picked up.
“We’re worried that people who want to flee violent areas are being prevented from doing so, are trapped by the fighting or don’t have the means to leave,” says Manski.
An estimated 1,800 people are currently crossing into Tunisia daily, compared to about 10,000 a day only a week ago. Most arrivals spend several days at the transit camp while awaiting transportation home, but others, including Somalis who had sought refuge in Libya, are likely to stay and wait out the crisis.
The IRC and partner groups are providing 60 of them with jobs and cash stipends to clean garbage and waste that have piled up in recent weeks and make other sanitation improvements. The IRC will also be working with local organizations in Tunisia to build their capacity to provide emergency assistance.
“The situation in the border areas is under control right now, but that could change in a flash,” says Manski. “It’s critical that services be maintained and improved at the border crossings in the event displacement suddenly gets worse.”