Libya: IOM steps up humanitarian assistance

With about 5,000 migrants including women and children still stranded at Salum, on the Libyan-Egyptian border living in difficult conditions, IOM is stepping up the humanitarian assistance it is providing.

Although the stranded migrants have been taking shelter in empty buildings at the border post, they have needed food, water and sanitation facilities.

Until now, the Organization has been providing about 2,500 food rations and bottled water to the Egyptian army at the border to pass on to the migrants in addition to other non-food items.

However, as of today, IOM and other agencies which are now also on the ground at Salum including UNHCR, Islamic Relief, Egyptian Food Bank and Catholic Relief Services, is significantly increasing food assistance as numbers of migrants stranded at the border continue to remain large.

IOM is doubling its food and water assistance to 5,000 rations a day and UNHCR to 3,000 rations. With sanitation an issue, UNICEF will rehabilitate existing facilities.

Efforts to ensure adequate humanitarian assistance is in place are critical as migrants continue to arrive from Libya although in fewer numbers than before.

Nearly 5,800 Egyptians and non-Egyptian migrants reached Salum on 3 March although on 4th March only 1,400 migrants of various nationalities arrived there. Among them were several hundred migrants evacuated by IOM from the Libyan port of Benghazi that day. However, reports indicate that people are continuing to make their way to Libya’s border with Egypt.

IOM staff on the ground report growing tension among the migrants at Salum, mostly Bangladeshi, but also a large group of Sub-Saharan Africans desperate to get home.

With large numbers of Bangladeshi migrants not just on the Egyptian border but also an estimated 7,000 at Ras Adjir in Tunisia and about 730 on the Greek island of Crete, IOM and UNHCR are now focusing their efforts on evacuating as many as possible to Dhaka.

“IOM has already assisted nearly 1,270 Bangladeshi migrants to return home in recent days. We hope that with this push, we will succeed in getting much larger numbers of migrants home safely,” says Mohammed Abdiker, Director of Operations at IOM

More than 500 Bangladeshis will be assisted home by IOM from Tunisia on flights provided by the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) on 6 March with IOM staff in Dhaka on hand to provide assistance on arrival.

Many more flights are currently being organized for departure over the next few days.

Elsewhere, more than 500 mainly Nigerien migrants have arrived at the IOM migrant reception and transit centre in Dirkou. Among the group were about 70 Malians, Senegalese, Burkinabés and Ghanaians as well as women and children. The centre is now hosting 683 migrants with IOM also providing food and non-food assistance.

Another 1,154 Nigeriens have already transited through the IOM centre in Dirkou and have been assisted by the Organization to get to Agadez and for some, to their home villages.

The centre is bracing for the arrival of several thousands of Sub-Saharan Africans reportedly en route from the Libyan border.

However, the geographic spread of stranded migrants is much greater than thought. IOM has been made aware of Vietnamese, Nepalese and Bangladeshi migrants in Malta, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Algeria and Sudan.

Approximately 3,500 Vietnamese migrants are now in five other countries apart from Egypt and Tunisia, with close to 300 having fled to Algeria.

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