IRC concerned about rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya
Nearly all of the 300,000 people who have crossed into neighboring countries since the Libyan crisis erupted last month are foreign workers and have been repatriated. The latest reports indicate that very few Libyans--about 3,000---have so far left the country for Egypt. (Photo: Chris de Bode/SV)
As the war in Libya intensifies, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is deeply concerned about the security of civilians and the humanitarian situation in the country.
“As coalition airstrikes continue, little is known about the humanitarian situation in Libya, although there are many reports that civilians are being used as human shields,” said Gillian Dunn, the IRC’s director for emergency response. “With fighting intensifying in densely populated areas, we are concerned about the increasing loss of lives, a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and grave violations of international humanitarian law.”
The latest reports indicate that very few Libyans--about 3,000---have so far left the country for Egypt, Dunn said.
Libyans who had gathered at the border with Egypt and spoke to representatives from the UN refugee agency UNHCR said that they feared reprisals by pro-government supporters in the eastern part of the country. Some said they had seen their homes destroyed. Around 3,000 people, both Libyan and Egyptians, crossed the border last Sunday, according to Egyptian authorities.
The situation on the Tunisian-Libyan border meanwhile is equally quiet. Some 2,000 people crossed the border from western Libya over the weekend. Nearly all of the 300,000 people who have crossed into neighboring countries since the Libyan crisis erupted last month are foreign workers and have been repatriated. As of today, about 4,700 people, mainly from Bangladesh, remain in camps in Tunisia and the number is expected to decrease as more third country nationals are repatriated.
The IRC is on standby to assist refugees on both the Egyptian and Tunisian side of the border should the number of refugees increase, Dunn said.
“We are also ready to provide assistance to people inside Libya, when the security situation allows,” Dunn said. “Our primary focus will be on restoring market systems and livelihoods, ensuring that people have access to goods and services, and supporting their human rights.”
Last week, the IRC withdrew from the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi, amid a government offensive against the city. The IRC team had travelled to Benghazi to assess humanitarian needs there. Daire O’Reilly, who led the IRC’s emergency relief efforts on Libya’s border with Egypt, said that most humanitarian aid organizations have now pulled out of eastern Libya.
From the onset of the crisis, the IRC has provided refugees at Ras Ajdir on the Tunisian-Libyan border with jobs and cash stipends as well as access to health care and hygiene programs.