UNHCR and IOM appeal for urgent support to sustain humanitarian evacuation operation

GENEVA - A joint humanitarian evacuation, spearheaded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with the support of a large number of countries, have evacuated over 50,000 migrants stranded at border camps in Tunisia and Egypt. Tens of thousands of others were taken home by aircrafts and ships provided by their governments.

"This is one of the biggest humanitarian evacuations in history," IOM Director General William Lacy Swing said.

The two organizations are appealing to donor governments today for renewed substantial funding and logistical assets to handle the second phase of evacuations. IOM estimates that over one million migrant workers remain in Libya, including many from Sub-Saharan Africa.

At the height of the exodus, over 17,000 who fled Libya were crowded into a UNHCR-supported transit camp at the Tunisian border, many awaiting help to return to their home countries. As of today, only 6,500 people remain stranded in Tunisia, 2,500 in Egypt and 1,500 in Algeria and Niger. Most will be evacuated by IOM and UNHCR flights this weekend creating a more manageable situation in the border areas as new groups of people continue to flee Libya.

IOM and UNHCR are estimating that an average of 1,500 - 2,500 people in need of evacuation will continue to cross these borders every day. The two organizations are requesting governments to urgently provide funding to enable the continued evacuation of new groups. "The generous funding and in-kind contributions have so far allowed us to safely evacuate more than 50,000 migrants desperate to be home, safe with their families. But thousands more will still need help," says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

"We are grateful to Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and Niger for offering refuge to thousands of civilians fleeing Libya daily and in dire need of assistance," said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "With impressive help from governments, we have been able to manage the massive and sudden movement of tens of thousands of people. But this humanitarian crisis is far from over."

Some 300,000 people have fled Libya in the past few weeks. As the fighting inside Libya continues, UNHCR and IOM are ready to assist new groups of arrivals and transport them quickly back to their countries. Meanwhile, UNHCR is working to find solutions for a growing number of people originating from situations of war and persecution who have no possibility to repatriate.