An IOM-chartered ship with a capacity to carry 1,000 passengers has left Brindisi in southern Italy to evacuate thousands of stranded migrant workers from the Libyan port of Misrata.
The ship will arrive in Benghazi, Libya later today, April 12th, to load humanitarian aid donated by aid agencies and local people, including blankets, food, water and medical supplies, before sailing on to Misrata, which is located 130 kms west of the capital, Tripoli.
Thousands of migrant workers are thought to be stranded by fighting between the government and rebel forces in the city, which is Libya's third largest and has been effectively under siege for the past month and a half.
IOM has chartered the vessel to make two rotations between Benghazi and Misrata - a distance of 500 kms - but hopes to eventually evacuate 7,000 to 8,000 migrants, subject to available funding.
The evacuation of migrant workers by sea follows two earlier IOM evacuations from Benghazi to the Egyptian port of Alexandria, but is the first time that a ship has been sent to Misrata.
Aid workers believe that there may be thousands of people trapped in the city, unable to leave their homes or communicate with the outside world, but in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
"Many people may come out of hiding when they hear about the arrival of the ship. We are therefore making contingency plans for more evacuations," says IOM Director for the Middle East and North Africa Pasquale Lupoli.
Migrant workers evacuated from Misrata port will be taken to Benghazi port, where they will be put on buses to Sallum at the Egyptian border. Upon their arrival in Sallum, IOM will assist non-Egyptians with their onward return to their home countries, as part of its ongoing evacuation operation.
For more information please contact Mathieu Luciano at IOM Cairo. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. +202 2358 00 11 or +202 2380 8746