IRC launching sanitation and shelter assistance on Tunisian-Libyan border
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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The IRC's Alan Manski (right) speaks with Egyptian migrant workers who told him they fled Tripoli five days ago and are still waiting to be repatriated to their homeland. (Photo: IRC)
3 Mar 2011 - A transit center set up in Tunisia at the Ras Adjir border crossing has become saturated with people who fled the crisis in Libya, increasing the need for improved sanitation and shelter services at the site.
An estimated 90,000 people have crossed into Tunisia in the past 10 days – nearly all of them male migrant laborers who had been working in Libya. The workers are generally finding transportation home after three to five days, but the arrivals have been outpacing the departures.
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“Today, as many as 15,000 people were camped out just over the border with no shelter or washing facilities and only a few toilets,” says Alan Manski, who is overseeing the International Rescue Committee’s emergency response in Tunisia. “People have no choice but to defecate in public. They haven’t been able to shower since they left their homes in Libya. There have been plenty of food and water bottle distributions, but no garbage pick-up. As for shelter, the nights are very cold, people are sleeping on the dirt or on slabs of concrete, and it rained today. So, shelter materials are also a real need, even though the situation is short-term.”
The IRC is starting a shelter and sanitation project at the transit center this week——giving stipends to workers staying there to build latrines and remove garbage that’s piling up. The IRC is also procuring thousands of pieces of plastic sheeting to be used as temporary shelter.
The IRC team has interviewed dozens of new arrivals at the border crossing. Most of them said they fled to escape violence and looting in the communities where they lived in western Libya and others said they were no longer getting paid their monthly wages. Some reported increasing food scarcity in Tripoli and surrounding areas. Many from sub-Saharan African countries spoke of worsening harassment and persecution and several said they were being targeted and feared for their lives. Most were able to take some belongings with them, but had to leave most of their possessions behind. Nearly everyone expressed fear that the worst violence had yet to come.
Tens of thousands of migrant workers continue to flee eastern Libya into Egypt. Most of them are Egyptian nationals and are able to return to their communities of origin, but others remain stranded at the border. An IRC assessment team has arrived in Egypt and will be looking at providing humanitarian assistance along the Egyptian-Libyan border.
Both IRC teams are contingency planning in the event of greater population movements as battles continue between opposition fighters and forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.
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