UNHCR provides tents for hundreds of flood victims in Libya

News Stories, 3 May 2013

© UNHCR Photo
Aid, including tents provided by UNHCR, was distributed to flood victims, such as this old man.

TRIPOLI, Libya, May 3 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency earlier this week donated 350 tents to provide shelter for hundreds of people forced to flee their homes in south-east Libya because of damaging floods.

Heavy rainstorms last week caused flooding, damaged homes and reportedly left at least five people dead and dozens injured in the deep south towns of Immralanib, Majdol, Tarpo, Zaolya and Hemerah.

At least 584 families (about 3,000 people) were forced to leave their homes, including 25 families who had previously been forcibly displaced from their homes by fighting in the Kufra region between government and rebel forces.

On Sunday, the Libyan Defence Ministry flew 350 family-size tents provided by UNHCR to the affected areas as well as blankets, mattresses, food and clothing provided by the Libyan Red Crescent and local NGOs, including LibAid and the Libyan Humanitarian Aid Mission based in the south.

A UNHCR protection official was on the flight, which was necessary because the roads to the affected area, some 900 kilometres south-east of Tripoli, were badly damaged by the floods. "Many houses collapsed, sometimes killing the people inside. The rain swept away whole houses," said Mohamed Akelah, a senior protection assistant with UNHCR. "Families are in desperate need of assistance."

The relief items were distributed in the affected towns on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. But, as Akelah noted, the flood-affected are still at risk. They are exposed and vulnerable and in need of continuing help, including food and medicine. UNHCR is looking at ways to provide further assistance.

Also in Libya, UNHCR continues to provide protection and assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers, including Syrians and people from sub-Saharan Africa on mixed migration routes, as well as some 60,000 people still internally displaced almost two years after the end of the conflict that ended the Gaddafi regime.

The protection needs of the Syrians are a big concern, especially since the closure in February of the border with Egypt. As part of UNHCR's regular protection monitoring, the Tripoli office has received reports of arbitrary arrest, detention and mistreatment of Syrians trying to get into the country.

The refugee agency has to date registered some 8,100 Syrian refugees, but more than 100,000 more are believed to be in the country but not registered. Their presence is putting pressure on the education system and housing. UNHCR has started to increase its capacity to register the refugees, including the use of two mobile registration teams.

And UNHCR is providing assistance to the most vulnerable, including blankets, mattresses and kitchen and hygiene sets. The Ministry of Health recently granted Syrian refugees free access to medical centres and hospitals.

With regard to sub-Saharan Africans, who often face detention, UNHCR has worked with the authorities to help secure the release of the most vulnerable and to arrange for refugee ID to be given to hundreds of people of concern. UNHCR, in consultation with the Libyan authorities, is registering people deemed to be in need of international protection and issuing them with attestations to their status.

Meanwhile, the refugee agency has recently noted an increase in the number of people leaving Libya by sea in hopes of reaching Europe. Since the start of March, 24 boats have departed from Libya carrying about 2,500 people, including 1,790 in April. Those on board were mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan. Nineteen reached Italy, one made it to Malta and four were turned back by the Libyan coastguard.

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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

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.

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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

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