Lack of funds threatening UNHCR's work in Libya, neighbouring countries

Briefing Notes, 15 April 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 15 April 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

[Editors: Final para edited to reflect correct numbers]

UNHCR is facing a critical shortage of funds for our operations in Libya and neighbouring countries. Unless funds are swiftly committed by donor countries, this shortfall will likely impact vital humanitarian assistance for tens of thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting.

UNHCR has appealed for over US$68.5 million to cover the initial three to four months of the emergency. To date we have received USD$39.4 million, all of which has been spent or committed. We are calling on donor countries to urgently fund this shortfall.

Of the amount received, US$18.4 million has been contributed towards the joint UNHCR-IOM humanitarian evacuation of over 100,000 third country nationals from Egypt and Tunisia. Millions more have been spent on airlifting urgent aid supplies to Tunisia and Egypt, offering shelter and protection for tens of thousands of people awaiting evacuation, regularly trucking supplies into Libya and providing financial assistance to refugees and other vulnerable groups in Libya. Throughout Libya UNHCR has identified a need to expand activities to provide assistance to tens of thousands of displaced people and thousands of refugees who depend upon us for help.

UNHCR has a small team of national staff in Tripoli, who are doing their best to offer assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR. We consider the humanitarian needs in western Libya to be significant. UNHCR and partners are ready to offer humanitarian support in the west if and when permission is granted by the government.

We currently have emergency staff on mission in Tobruk and Benghazi in eastern Libya as part of an inter-agency team. Local authorities have identified over 35,000 displaced people, mostly from Ajdabiyya and others from Brega. They say that the actual number is likely to be around 100,000, since the population of Ajdabiyya is 120,000 and most people are thought to have left. While a few thousand have crossed into Egypt, the majority are displaced in Benghazi and Tobruk. According to the authorities, most of their basic needs are being addressed, thanks to the generosity of the local community. However, signs of strain are beginning to appear as a result of the deteriorating economic situation compounded by the fact that state salaries have not been paid for two months. The local authorities say more and more displaced people are approaching them for assistance every day.

It is vital that our ongoing operations in Egypt and Tunisia are funded so that we can continue to support the governments of both countries to keep their borders open for all those fleeing the conflict.

In Tunisia UNHCR urgently needs funds to support the recent influx to Tunisia of Libyans fleeing the fighting in the Western Mountains. According to Tunisian authorities at Dehiba border, 1,620 Libyans crossed on Wednesday alone. Over 3,000 people have crossed in the past week into this area. Some 47 kilometres further west, in Remada, UNHCR has established a camp that now shelters about 350 people. Most of the Libyan families that have crossed into this area are staying with local families or at youth centres in Tataouine. One hotel is providing accommodation free of charge, while some Libyan bedouin have crossed with their cattle which are being cared for by local Tunisian families.

Meanwhile some 8,000 people are hosted in the camps near the Ras Ajdir border crossing with Libya. A third of this population is Somali and Eritrean refugees who cannot return home and are in need of alternative solutions.

In addition we need funds to support the local communities in and around Ras Adjir, Dehiba, Remada, Tataouine, as well as in other areas where local people are offering assistance to people fleeing the violence in Libya.

Meanwhile in Egypt, UNHCR staff are set to begin a needs assessment of Libyans living in Marsa Martrouh, a town some 200 km from the Egypt-Libya border. There are over 1,000 people stranded at the border including 567 refugees and asylum-seekers. According to the border authorities while Libyans continue to flee at a rate of more than 2,000 people a day, some 1,000 Libyans cross back into Libya from Egypt daily.

As of 13 April 513,129 have fled the violence in Libya. This includes 209,173 to Egypt (84,419 from Egypt, 63,747 from Libya and 61,007 others), 245,009 to Tunisia (20,617 from Tunisia, 57,221 from Libya and 167,171 others), 33,615 to Niger (31,066 from Niger and 2,549 others), 14,126 to Algeria (1,078 from Algeria, 3,599 from Libya and 9,449 others), 6,219 to Chad (6,113 from Chad and 106 others), 1,372 to Italy, 815 to Malta and 2,800 to Sudan.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

On the Egyptian border: Helene Caux on mobile: +201 294 66 378

On the Tunisian border: Firas Kayal on mobile +216 508 561 99

In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 91 20

Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617

Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38




UNHCR country pages

UNHCR Supplementary Appeal

UNHCR Supplementary Budget: The Libya Situation, March 2011


Governments, organisations and individuals who fund UNHCR's activities.

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined UNHCR chief António Guterres on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they met with boat people who have fled unrest in North Africa.

More than 40,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and descended on the small island since the beginning of the year.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

On the Border: Stuck in Sallum

After violence erupted in Libya in February last year, tens of thousands of people began streaming into Egypt at the Sallum border crossing. Most were Egyptian workers, but almost 40,000 third country nationals also turned up at the border and had to wait until they could be repatriated. Today, with the spotlight long gone, a group of more than 2,000 people remain, mainly single young male refugees from the Sudan. But there are also women, children and the sick and elderly waiting for a solution to their situation. Most are likely to be resettled in third countries, but those who arrived after October are not being considered for resettlement, while some others have been rejected for refugee status. They live in tough conditions at the Egyptian end of the border crossing. A site for a new camp in no man's land has been identified. UNHCR, working closely with the border authorities, plays the major role in providing protection and assistance.

On the Border: Stuck in Sallum

Displacement Challenges for Libya

Libya endured severe upheaval in 2011 and the next government faces major challenges moving the country forward after four decades of Muammar Gaddafi's rigid rule. One task will be addressing and resolving the issue of tens of thousands of internally displaced people. Some are waiting for their homes to be repaired or rebuilt, but many more have been forced to desert their towns and villages because of their perceived support for Gaddafi and alleged crimes committed during the conflict. Meanwhile, growing numbers of people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, are coming to Libya from sub-Saharan Africa on well travelled mixed migration routes. Some are being detained as illegal immigrants, though many are people of concern. Others have risked the dangerous sea crossing to southern Europe.

Displacement Challenges for Libya

Joint Appeal: Help Sought as Food Shortages Threaten Refugees in AfricaPlay video

Joint Appeal: Help Sought as Food Shortages Threaten Refugees in Africa

The World Food Programme and the United Nations refugee agency seek urgent funding to help 800,000 refugees in Africa affected by food shortages. Cuts in food rations threaten to worsen already unacceptable levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anaemia, particularly in children.
Iraq: Innovation & Refugee ShelterPlay video

Iraq: Innovation & Refugee Shelter

The IKEA Foundation is funding the development of durable and easy-to-assemble shelters for refugees. Syrians in northern Iraq have been among the first to try them out.
Syrian Refugees:  Taking Taekwondo Classes In JordanPlay video

Syrian Refugees: Taking Taekwondo Classes In Jordan

Life in a refugee camp is tough. But with funding help from South Korea, young Syrian refugees in Jordan's Za'atri camp are getting fit and boosting their morale by taking Taekwondo classes.