Migrant workers fleeing Libya are opening up new escape routes, presenting a growing challenge for IOM, which is having to establish new reception facilities as international donor funds dwindle.
On average, some 8,000 migrants are still crossing Libya's borders daily. Nearly half of them head towards the Libyan-Tunisian border at Ras Djadir. The rest are going to Sallum on the Egyptian border, Dirkou in Niger and Algeria. Two weeks ago, migrants also started to arrive at the Libya's borders with Sudan and Chad.
Yesterday, 7th April, an IOM team arrived in the Chadian town of Faya Largeau, situated at 300 km from the Libyan border. They will set up a new transit centre to receive 1,200 migrants who will be arriving shortly in a convoy of 17 trucks from Sabha, a town in central Libya. The migrants have told IOM that another twenty buses of Chadians have already left Sabha and are heading towards Faya Largeau.
"These people include children, women and elderly people. They have very little and will have to sleep in the open with no protection against the elements. We have to do something to help them, even if our funding has almost dried up," says Sufi Qasim, IOM's Chief of Mission in Chad, who spoke with the newly arrived.
On Wednesday, IOM organized two charter flights from Faya Largeau to the Chadian capital Ndjamena and Abeche to evacuate 108 vulnerable people, including women and children, who could not make the four-day journey by road across the desert.
Another one thousand migrants, mostly Chadians, have also arrived at Kaliyit, 100 km south of Faya Largeau. These people are now living in the open with very little shelter, food or water, according to IOM staff on the ground.
"We need to provide onward transportation inside Chad for these people as soon as possible. Soon it will be the rainy season and many roads will become impassable," says Qasim.
There were an estimated 300,000 Chadian migrants working inside Libya before the conflict began in late February 2011. To date, IOM has evacuated about 10,306 Chadians from Libya through Ras Djadir in Tunisia and Sallum in Egypt.
In the meantime, an average of 3,000 to 4,000 migrants are still crossing the Libyan-Tunisian border and arriving at the Choucha camp every day. The numbers of people departing the camp has dropped to less than 1,000 a day. Yesterday there were some 9,300 migrants in the camp and according to IOM staff, unless departures pick up, over-crowding will increase.
The situation at the Libyan-Egyptian border at Sallum is also tense, with some 4, 500 people waiting to be evacuated, with over 2,000 people a day still arriving.
The Dirkou transit centre in northern Niger, which has a capacity of 200 people, is now hosting 600 migrants. IOM staff say that onward transport has become a challenge, as the owners of the lorries are now charging in excess of CFA 2.5 million (USD 5,000) per lorry for a three-day journey to Agadez, a stop on the way to the capital, Niamey.
Hygiene and the supply of drinking water in Dirkou, a town of just 4,000 people, is now also becoming a problem, due to the expanding population caused by slow evacuations.
Meanwhile, IOM is receiving more requests for assistance. The embassies of Egypt, Sudan, Senegal, Ghana and Niger have all asked for additional IOM help to evacuate their nationals from inside Libya. In Benghazi, eastern Libya, IOM, working closely with the Libyan Red Crescent, has already assisted in the evacuation of more than 5,000 people by road and ship to Egypt.
IOM has appealed to the international community for USD 160 million to evacuate and repatriate migrants fleeing the violence in Libya. To date it has received some USD 40 million or 25% of the total and has helped some 95,300 migrants return to their home countries. IOM has also appealed for in-kind donations, such as ships, aircraft and trucks.
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