In response to queries at today’s Palais press briefing, UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley made the following comments on Libya.
By Charlie Yaxley | 14 May 2019
UNHCR remains concerned at the security situation in Tripoli, with clashes and airstrikes taking place in and around the city. Over the past few days, airstrikes and artillery shelling have been carried out in Ain Zara, Tajoura and near to Tripoli International Airport. Thousands of civilians are moving on a daily basis to safer locations in cities along the coast and towards the Nafusa Mountains. Humanitarian needs are rising as food and medicines are limited and movement within the city is difficult. UNHCR is continuing to monitor the needs of the displaced, and is distributing blankets, sleeping mats and other core relief items.
UNHCR is very concerned for the safety of some 3,300 refugees and migrants being held in detention centres. In several detention centres, particularly in the western area, people are in urgent need of medical treatment. Food is in short supply as catering companies are facing difficulties with access. Water and sanitation facilities are in disrepair.
On 9 May, UNHCR transferred 239 refugees from Azzawya, Al Sabah and Tajoura detention centres to the Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF). Two days earlier, an airstrike stuck a facility close to Tajoura detention centre. UNHCR is in a race against time to urgently move refugees and migrants out of detention centres to safety, and we urge the international community to come forward with offers of evacuation, humanitarian corridors, whatever it takes to get people out of harm’s way.
In the past week, some 944 people have departed to depart from the Libyan coast in boats. 65 drowned off the coast of Tunisia. Of the survivors (879), 65% were returned to Libya. UNHCR reiterates that no one should be returned to Libya. A two-pronged approach is needed that sees an increase in search and rescue capacity from NGO and State vessels, and an immediate increase in humanitarian evacuations for refugees and migrants out of detention centres in Tripoli.
NGO boats have played a vital role in saving lives at sea, and we urge states to lift legal and logistical restrictions to their operations. We also call on States to offer safe and legal pathways to accessing asylum to prevent people from having to step foot on boats in the first place.
- In Geneva, Charlie Yaxley, firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 580 8702