Nearly 1,200 migrants stranded in Misrata since the start of the Libyan crisis two months ago have been evacuated on an IOM-chartered boat from the port city and are now on their way to Benghazi.
Among those on the boat are women, children and the elderly. The migrants are all very weak and dehydrated with many needing medical attention being provided by medical non-government organizations (NGOs) on board the ship which have set up a small hospital on deck.
The evacuated migrants represent many nationalities, the majority of them Bangladeshis and Egyptians. Among the others are Indians, Iraqis, Pakistani, Sudanese, Eritreans, Tunisians, an Algerian, Nigerien and Dutch.
With not enough space on the boat to evacuate everyone at once, priority was given to those clearly vulnerable and those who had been stranded at the port the longest.
The migrants were among the 8,300 migrants identified by IOM who have been living in the open around the port of Misrata without shelter, adequate food, access to clean water or medical care.
Their condition has been of major concern to IOM which has been trying to evacuate the thousands of migrants from the city for several weeks but which has been hampered by lack of funds and security issues.
Nevertheless, the critical condition in which many of the migrants are now in had made it imperative that a rescue mission was carried out without further delay. Funding from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (ECHO) provided the means to carry out the mission with IOM staff also highlighting the incredible support given to them by the boat's captain, crew and the company.
A second journey will be made to Misrata immediately after the 1182 migrants on the IOM-chartered Ionian Spirit arrive safely in Benghazi later tonight.
IOM staff in Benghazi, together with the Libyan Red Crescent will be on standby to disembark the migrants and provide continued medical care and escort.
However, unless funding materialises immediately for IOM evacuation operations, the Organization will not be able to rescue any more of the migrants from the fighting in Misrata.
"This is a terrible situation. The plight of the migrants in Misrata, Tripoli, Sabah and many other Libyan towns and cities, stranded without the means to survive is the humanitarian crisis in the region. They are the forgotten victims of the crisis and shouldn't be," says IOM's Regional Representative for the Middle East, Pasquale Lupoli in Cairo.
The IOM-chartered boat had also been carrying at least 400 tons of humanitarian aid for the people of Misrata donated by Libyan individuals, business and national and international non-governmental organizations.
The aid was off-loaded soon after the boat docked on Thursday night, allowing IOM to embark the migrants quickly and set sail for Benghazi in the early hours of Friday morning.
In the meantime, IOM has also been made aware of nearly 30,000 Chadians stranded in the Libyan town of Gatroun, about 1,000 kms from the Chadian border. Among them are many families with children and are in urgent need of humanitarian and evacuation assistance.
According to the Chadian government, there are still about 275,000 Chadians inside Libya.
For further information, please contact Jemini Pandya, IOM Geneva, Tel: + 41 22 717 9486/+ 41 79 217 3374, Email: email@example.com or Jumbe Omari Jumbe, Tel: + 41 22 717 9405/+ 41 79 812 7734 email: firstname.lastname@example.org ISDN Line : 41 22 788 38 61