UNHCR chief Guterres calls for safety of third-country nationals in Libya

News Stories, 22 August 2011

© UNHCR/F.Noy
Migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa sit by the sea in Benghazi, eastern Libya.

GENEVA, August 22 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today called on all sides of the conflict in Libya to ensure that the thousands of third-country nationals trapped in Tripoli and other areas by the continuing fighting are properly protected from harm.

"Thousands of third-country nationals in Libya will be feeling great fear and uncertainty at this time," he said. "We have seen at earlier stages in this crisis that such people, Africans especially, can be particularly vulnerable to hostility or acts of vengeance. It is crucial that humanitarian law prevails through these climactic moments and that foreigners including refugees and migrant workers are being fully and properly protected from harm."

It is crucial that humanitarian law prevails through these climactic moments and that foreigners including refugees and migrant workers are being fully and properly protected from harm.

António Guterres
UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, as well as people with international protection needs, have fled Libya to neighbouring countries over the course of the Libya crisis. However, many tens of thousands are believed to have remained in Tripoli and other areas.

People from sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, have been harassed or attacked because of rumours that many of them are mercenaries hired to fight in the war, which erupted in February. Many have risked their lives to escape from Libya by sea in a bid to reach Europe.

UNHCR has a presence in the besieged Libyan capital, Tripoli, and in the east of the country. UNHCR teams have also been operating on the Tunisian and Egyptian borders.