A third IOM-chartered boat bringing more humanitarian aid into the besieged city of Misrata is due to arrive in the port later today with the aim of rescuing more stranded migrants.
The boat, the Ionian Spirit, left Benghazi on Tuesday night carrying 500 tons of food, medical supplies, hygiene kits and non-food items donated mainly by the Libyan private sector with some aid provided by Qatar and the U.A.E. Red Crescent.
A Libyan non-governmental organization Libaid has donated the hygiene kits, medical supplies, hospital wheelchairs and four generators for hospital use.
Also on board are a team of 13 doctors with differing specializations. Two of the doctors who will relieve colleagues working in the hospital in Misrata will also refer critical but stable cases to IOM for evacuation to Benghazi.
"The presence of a large group of doctors with different specializations means greater capacity and more flexibility to assist those critically wounded or sick on board for the return journey to Benghazi," said IOM operational leader Jeremy Haslam as the boat departed.
However, the main focus of this third IOM operation to rescue stranded migrants in Misrata is to bring as many migrants as possible to safety.
In particular, the Organization is hoping to target a large number of migrants from Niger. Of the estimated 5,000 migrants around the port area, more than 3,200 are believed to be Nigeriens.
"We don't know whether we will be able to reach them, however. If they are not close to the port, then it will be extremely hard to access them given the security conditions in the city," Haslam added.
In two previous missions funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (ECHO), IOM has rescued more than 2,100 people from Misrata, nearly 100 of them Libyans.
New funding of one million Euros from the German government and £1.5 million (US$2.4m) from Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) will allow IOM to continue its rescue operations from Misrata where about 5,000 migrants are still believed to be stranded, to the eastern port city of Benghazi.
However, a critical shortage of funds means that while the migrants are brought to relative safety in Benghazi, they will remain stranded there without additional means.
"Taking the migrants out of the line of fire is life-saving, but by not being able to take them out of Libya and safely home means their plight has simply been transplanted to another location," says IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, Mohammed Abdiker.
"This is true for all the migrants who we need to help inside Libya and for those who have managed to cross Libya's borders with its neighbours."
More than 5,000 migrants on the Egyptian, Tunisian and Nigerien borders with Libya are still in need of evacuation to their home countries.
Among the many identified groups of migrants needing urgent evacuation from inside Libya are a group of nearly 30,000 Chadians, including women and children, marooned in Gatroun. IOM is in discussions with the Libyan and Chadian authorities on accessing the group.
It comes as the number of Chadians crossing into Chad from Libya has dramatically increased with a growing number of the migrants stranded in northern towns such as Faya and Kaliyit. The migrants are all dehydrated, extremely tired and in need of food.
An IOM transit centre at Faya, where UNHCR has provided tents to accommodate arrivals, which has a capacity of 750 people is now overflowing.
"An airlift to Ndjamena is the only option. But again this is a costly operation," Abdiker states. "We are in a position where we have beefed up our operational presence at the Chadian border points to cope with the number of arrivals but we have no money to evacuate the migrants from these isolated desert areas to the Chadian capital."
Working with various Embassies, an IOM operation begun some weeks ago to evacuate stranded migrants in Tripoli by bus to the Tunisian border will be difficult to continue.
Only yesterday, 19 April, IOM evacuated a group of 100 Beninois migrants from the Libyan capital, including women and infants.
IOM appealed for about US$160 million dollars for its response to the Libyan crisis with much of the funding to provide evacuation assistance from both inside and outside Libya. The Organization has received to date US$65 million, all of it except the new funding spent on operations that have helped return more than 115,000 migrants return to their home countries and evacuate many thousands from inside Libya to Egypt and Tunisia.
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