UNHCR helping 10,000 refugees & migrants, thousands of internally displaced in Libya's Sabratha
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Since last Friday, UNHCR teams in Libya have been responding to the urgent humanitarian needs in and around Sabratha, a city located some 80 kilometres west of the libyan capital Tripoli. The city has been the theater of three weeks of fierce fighting.
Clashes there left 3,000 Libyan families displaced and more than 10,000 refugees and migrants stranded and in need of urgent assistance.
More than 500 houses were damaged or destroyed by mortars and shelling. Of the displaced, 2,000 families have since returned to their homes. Local authorities also report that a number of schools were damaged during the fighting. UNHCR is working closely with the authorities to identify quick-impact projects (QIPs) in Sabratha, Sorman and Zuwara focusing on education, and including rehabilitation of schools. We are working with a local partner LibAid and the Sabratha Local Crisis Committee to provide support to internally displaced people and returnees. The most pressing needs for those displaced or returning include temporary shelter, basic aid items and medical support. Today, UNHCR is delivering aid kits to local authorities coordinating the internally displaced people response.
At the same time, some 10,000 refugees and migrants who were found stranded in Sabratha following the end of fighting last Friday are in desperate need of help. The Libyan authorities took control of several unofficial detention centres previously run by a criminal network involved in trafficking and smuggling where these refugees and migrants were being held in very difficult conditions. Migrants and refugees were transferred to a hangar in the Dahman area. This is now being used as an assembly point, and currently hosts 4,500 individuals. Over the last few days hundreds of people have been transferred from Dahman to different detention centres in and around Tripoli.
As a priority, UNHCR’s teams have been working on identifying vulnerable refugees who might have been transferred to detention centres. UNHCR has already approached the authorities to ensure that detained refugees are immediately released and transferred to a safe place, where UNHCR can provide them with additional emergency assistance, including shelter for the most vulnerable.
Since Monday, UNHCR has been sending trucks with emergency assistance including sleeping bags, hygiene kits, food and blankets to respond to the immediate needs. Additionally, UNHCR has deployed staff to various locations to do assessments to better understand the needs. The most pressing needs include psychological first aid, emergency medical care, food, water, core relief items and shelter, as many refugees and migrants, including children and vulnerable individuals, are sleeping out in the open. UNHCR teams have also identified individuals suffering from injuries, dehydration, scabies, asthma, diarrhoea and severe trauma due to the events lived over the past days. Unaccompanied and separated children have also been identified, with some children reporting the recent loss of their parents during the last few days. UNHCR is coordinating the response with other humanitarian partners.
Overall, our teams on the ground paint a very grim picture. Many people are traumatized and require urgent psychological first aid. Hundreds were found without clothes or shoes, many with injuries and require urgent medical attention. UNHCR has responded by providing winter jackets to protect people from the cold and tents for use as medical clinics.
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