UNHCR says gravely concerned for safety of asylum seekers, refugees in Libya

Briefing Notes, 22 February 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 22 February 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

With the events of the past few days in Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya), UNHCR has become increasingly concerned about dangers for civilians and especially for asylum-seekers and refugees as many may inadvertently be caught up in this violence.

We have no access at this time to the refugee community. Over the past months we have been trying to regularize our presence in Libya, and this has constrained our work.

Some of the reports we are getting from third-party sources are very worrying. A journalist has passed information to us from Somalis in Tripoli who say they are being hunted on suspicion of being mercenaries. He says they feel trapped and are frightened to go out, even though there is little or no food at home.

Prior to the current unrest UNHCR had registered over 8,000 refugees in Libya, with a further 3,000 asylum-seekers having pending cases. The main places of origin are Palestine, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia and Chad.

We ask all countries to recognize the humanitarian needs at this time of all people fleeing targeted violence, threats, and other human rights abuses in Libya.