As migrants rescued on an IOM-chartered boat from the besieged Libyan city of Misrata are today taken by road from Benghazi to Salum, efforts are underway to begin a third mission to evacuate some of the many thousands of migrants still stranded in the city.
New funding from the British government's Department for International Development (DFID) of £1.5 million (US$2.4 m) in addition to additional pledges will allow IOM to continue its efforts to rescue the remaining 5,000 migrants still in Misrata.
A third mission may leave for Misrata later today.
The migrants in Misrata, many of whom have been camping out in the port environs in Misrata since the early days of the Libyan crisis are trying to survive in extremely difficult conditions. Living virtually in the open with little protection except for tarpaulins or whatever makeshift shelter they have been able to construct, and with no sanitation or access to clean water and little food, their physical condition is deteriorating on a daily basis.
"The lack of sanitation and the severe health risks it poses, as well as the constant shelling and firing are the biggest risks to their lives," says IOM's Jeremy Haslam, who has been leading the IOM operation to rescue the stranded migrants on two successive boat missions. "Food support for the migrants from the Libyan community around has diminished over time as resources in the city in general have dried up. We need to reach them fast as they cannot bear up much longer."
The second IOM mission to Misrata concluded on Monday night when the IOM-chartered boat arrived in Benghazi in the evening with 931 evacuees on board, comprising 21 nationalities.
Among them were 72 Libyans, including 30 people in need of hospitalisation. Most of these cases were war wounded. Upon arrival, IOM and Libyan Red Crescent teams were on hand to take them immediately to various hospitals in Benghazi.
Contrary to earlier reports, 650 migrants on board believed to be Ghanaians were in fact of various West African nationalities. In the mistaken belief that only Ghanaians would be evacuated by the IOM-chartered boat, many had declared themselves to be from that West African country. All the migrants will today be taken to the Egyptian-Libyan border at Salum, from where they will be later taken to their home countries by IOM.
Although IOM has received funding to help with its evacuations from Misrata, the Organization has run out of funds to carry out its operations elsewhere in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Chad and Niger to help stranded migrants.
The Organization is using its meagre reserves to continue helping those fleeing the conflict in Libya and who are in desperate need to reach safety back home.
"Although the funding from the British government will help us to charter boats to take migrants from Misrata to Benghazi, we have no funds for the rest of our operations," says IOM Director of Emergency Operations Mohammed Abdiker.
"We have 20,000 Chadians stranded in eastern Libya, including women and children with another 30,000 Chadians in Ghatroun in a desperate state. Thousands more migrants are in Tripoli who need to be evacuated, and this is not forgetting the growing numbers of migrants at the borders with Tunisia and Egypt and those crossing into Niger and Chad who require help. Despite several requests we are back to square one on funding."
The lack of funds to evacuate large numbers of migrants is taking its toll on the migrants who after much suffering are having to wait to be taken home. Their frustration is now posing security problems for IOM staff on the Tunisian-Libyan border and with the evacuees from Misrata arriving at Salum, frustration will be clearly growing on the Egyptian-Libyan border.
More than 543,500 people have now fled the violence in Libya. Since the start of its operations, IOM and partners have helped 114,300 people to return to their home countries as of 17 April.
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