Resettlement programme ends at Egypt's Saloum as Libya crisis wanes

Briefing Notes, 21 October 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 21 October 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Effective Sunday, newly arriving third country nationals from Libya at Egypt's Saloum border will not be processed for resettlement by UNHCR. People already at Saloum will not be affected and work will continue on finding solutions for them, including resettlement for those found to be refugees. But anyone arriving after Sunday and seeking resettlement will no longer be processed for resettlement.

Saloum has been one of the main sites over recent months for people fleeing the crisis in Libya. Since the start of the conflict in February 37,866 third-country nationals have been evacuated from Saloum by IOM and UNHCR. In addition, some 900 refugees have been submitted for resettlement, with 163 having departed so far. The decision to halt further resettlement out of Saloum is based on a marked improvement in the situation in eastern Libya, and because UNHCR is refocusing its protection and assistance efforts inside Libya including RSD and resettlement. At Saloum we have started to see arrivals of people who were neither residents of Libya, nor affected by the conflict there such people fall outside the scope of the Saloum operation objectives of helping Egypt meet the humanitarian and protection needs of people displaced by fighting in Libya.

As of 20 October there were 1,816 people still at Saloum. Approximately half of these people have been submitted for resettlement, and most others are awaiting the completion of refugee status determination. Prior to the crisis in Libya there were some 11,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered there with UNHCR. More are expected to register in the near future.

UNHCR offices in Tripoli and Benghazi are providing assistance to several groups in Tripoli, Kufrah and Gariyet. Through cash-for-work schemes, UNHCR is seeking to facilitate progressive self-reliance and urban integration of refugees and asylum-seekers. UNHCR staff operate hotlines, conduct counseling sessions, and do regular home visits. Basic cash assistance, medical care and educational support continue to be important during this period of transition.

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Resettlement

An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Between February and October 2011, more than 1 million people crossed into Tunisia to escape conflict in Libya. Most were migrant workers who made their way home or were repatriated, but the arrivals included refugees and asylum-seekers who could not return home or live freely in Tunisia.

UNHCR has been trying to find solutions for these people, most of whom ended up in the Choucha Transit Camp near Tunisia's border with Libya. Resettlement remains the most viable solution for those registered as refugees at Choucha before a cut-off date of December 1, 2011.

As of late April, 14 countries had accepted 2,349 refugees for resettlement, 1,331 of whom have since left Tunisia. The rest are expected to leave Choucha later this year. Most have gone to Australia, Norway and the United States. But there are a more than 2,600 refugees and almost 140 asylum-seekers still in the camp. UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to find solutions for them.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

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

Crisis in Libya

UNHCR is working with the Tunisian and Egyptian authorities and aid groups to manage the dramatic influx of tens of thousands of people fleeing Libya. By the beginning of March, two weeks after the violence erupted in Libya, more than 140,000 people had fled to the neighbouring countries, while thousands more were waiting to cross. Most are Egyptian and Tunisian nationals, though small numbers of Libyans and other nationalities are managing to escape. UNHCR is particularly concerned about thousands of refugees and other foreigners trapped inside Libya, especially people from sub-Saharan Africa. The following photo essay gives a glimpse into what is happening at the borders.

Crisis in Libya

Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlementPlay video

Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlement

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehousePlay video

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehouse

An Iraqi man who turned down resettlement to the U.S. in 2006 tells how it feels now to be a "refugee" in his own country, in limbo, hoping to restart life in another Iraqi city.
Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New LifePlay video

Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New Life

After their family fled Syria, young brothers Mohamed and Youssef still were not safe. Unable to access medical treatment for serious heart and kidney conditions, they and the rest of their family were accepted for emergency resettlement to Norway.