A fourth IOM-chartered ship – the Red Star One – is expected to leave Benghazi within the next hour to evacuate stranded migrant workers and wounded civilians from Libya's besieged third city of Misrata. The latest voyage, which will also bring 160 tons of food, medical supplies, tents and mattresses to residents trapped in the city by the fighting, follows three earlier evacuations of over 3,100 people from Misrata on another IOM-chartered vessel - the Ionian Spirit.
Yesterday Ireland joined the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (ECHO), Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) and Germany to fund the evacuations, as fighting intensified in the city.
"Given the increasing number of casualties in Misrata and the thousands of lives that are in danger we felt a responsibility to act. Colonel Gadaffi's forces have agreed to allow ships into the port to evacuate civilians and we have requested that the IOM undertake an emergency operation on our behalf," said Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore.
Evacuees from Misrata, which has been the scene of fighting between Colonel Gadaffi's troops and rebels for over two months, have included 21 nationalities, including Egyptians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Indians, Dutch, Eritreans, Iraqis, Filipinos, Ghanaians, Nigerians, Niger nationals, Chadians, Algerians, Sudanese, Tunisians and Ukrainians, as well as wounded Libyans.
The Ionian Spirit, which docked in Benghazi last night on its final evacuation voyage, also transported the bodies of photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, who were killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack.
The Red Star One, which, like the Ionian Spirit, will sail with a specialized medical team of 11 on board to care for wounded evacuees.
As more evacuees arrive in Benghazi from Misrata, IOM faces an additional funding and logistical challenge in moving them by road to the Egyptian border at Sallum and eventually on to their final countries of destination on commercial and charter flights.
Some 225,000 people have crossed from Libya into Egypt since late February and over 2,500 a day are still coming. Some 5,000 migrants are still camped out in poor conditions in the border compound at Sallum, most of them waiting for travel documents from their respective embassies and onward flights arranged by IOM to help them to get home.
"IOM has already helped nearly 26,000 migrant workers to return home from Egypt, and nearly 90,000 from Tunisia, but may be faced with a funding crunch at any point, as migrants continue to pour out of Libya to escape the fighting," says IOM Director of Operations Mohammed Abdiker.
For further information, please contact Jean Philippe Chauzy, IOM Geneva, Tel: + 41 22 717 9361/+ 41 79 285 4366 Email: email@example.com
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