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Finland increases humanitarian assistance to people suffering from the Libyan crisis

Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen has granted EUR 1.5 million in humanitarian assistance to people suffering from the crisis in Libya. The aid is channelled through the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Each organisation is granted 500,000 euros.

"By means of additional assistance, Finland addresses particularly the needs for help arising from the prolongation of the crisis. The number of people needing assistance is great especially on the Libyan borders in Tunisia and Egypt, because the violence that erupted in Libya in February has lead to large numbers of people fleeing to the neighbouring countries," Väyrynen pointed out.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is responsible for the evacuations, and, so far, the organisation has helped more than 90,000 immigrants to return to their home countries after having crossed the Libyan border. UNHCR is responsible for administration of the refugee camps and it helps women and children needing special protection. The most vulnerable groups are also assisted by UNICEF, which has attended to the basic hygiene needs and water supply.

"The situation in Libya and the neighbouring countries is serious and unpredictable. Providing humanitarian assistance is the most efficient means by which Finland can assist the local people in distress," the Minister underlines.

At this stage, it is still impossible to make any precise estimates of what kind of needs for assistance people fleeing inside Libya and needing protection might have. Aid measures are being prepared all the time and they will be launched immediately, when access to the country becomes possible.

Alongside with humanitarian assistance, the EU has also been preparing the option of supporting the aid operation by means of military resources.

"The prerequisite for launching this kind of action is a request from the UN Humanitarian Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In practice, the request would be made in a situation in which civilian resources are found insufficient for supporting the delivery of assistance. However, OCHA has not yet made such a request or indicated that such a request would be made. In fact, both food and medicines were successfully delivered to Libya last Thursday via the port of Misrat by World Food Programme (WFP). The essential point is to ensure the neutrality of humanitarian assistance and keep is separated from any military action," Väyrynen highlights. Finland has been providing strong support for people suffering from the Libyan crisis from the very beginning. So far, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has granted 1.35 million euros in assistance to the Finnish Red Cross for deploying experts and material assistance to the area. The additional appropriations granted now raise the total Finnish humanitarian assistance to 2,850,000 euros.

Additional information: Päivi Nevala, Adviser to the Minister, tel. +358 40 753 4375, and Ulla-Maija Finskas, Director of the Unit for Humanitarian Assistance, tel. +358 400 431 921