About 800 people, including stranded migrants and up to 50 wounded civilians have been rescued today by IOM from the Libyan city of Misrata despite shelling and shooting in the port vicinity.
IOM staff on its chartered boat, the Red Star One, report they had to wait three hours after docking before people showed up, giving them less than an hour to try and evacuate as many people as possible.
Heavy shelling of Misrata in addition to mines having been laid had prevented the IOM boat from docking for five days. The fighting had forced at least 1,000 migrants who had been waiting at the port to be evacuated to flee the area.
IOM had been hoping to rescue about 1,000 stranded migrants in addition to evacuating the most serious medical cases.
The boat, which has just left Misrata, is now en route to Benghazi.
Also on board are a group of over 20 journalists and some doctors.
IOM team leader on the boat Othman Belbeisi reported that hundreds of Libyan civilians had also tried to board the ship in desperation to get out of Misrata. But with a limited capacity, the ramp of the boat had to be pulled up so that the ship could pull away from the dock in safety.
Details on the nationalities and the exact number of migrants will be known in the hours to come.
"We did our best and took everyone we could in a very short time, including Libyan women and children whose relatives had been wounded," says Belbeisi.
The sound of continuous gun fire could be heard in the background during the satellite communication with IOM staff on the ship.
The 180 tons of humanitarian aid comprising food, non-food and medical supplies had been off-loaded before the boat departed for Benghazi.
This is the sixth life-saving rescue mission to Misrata successfully carried out by IOM since early April. In that time, the Organization has delivered almost 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the besieged city and safely brought back to Benghazi about 6,000 stranded migrants, wounded civilians and their families.
IOM's humanitarian evacuation programme out of Misrata is funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civilian Protection Office (ECHO), Britain's Department for International Development (DFID), Germany, Ireland and Australia.
For further information, please contact Jean Philippe Chauzy, IOM Geneva, Tel: + 41 22 717 9361/+ 41 79 285 4366 Email: email@example.com or Jemini Pandya, Tel: + 41 22 717 9486/+ 41 79 217 3374 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Jumbe Omari Jumbe, Tel: + 41 22 717 9405/+41 79 812 7734 Email: email@example.com