Libya: Critical shortage of long-haul flights leaves thousands stranded at borders

9 March, 2011
The United Nations OSOCC at the entrance to a transit camp near the Tunisia-Libya border. Credit: OCHA/David Ohana
The United Nations OSOCC at the entrance to a transit camp near the Tunisia-Libya border. Credit: OCHA/David Ohana

IOM estimates that some 22,500 people remain stranded at the Libyan borders, with over 16,000 being Bangladeshis. An expected 40 to 50 long-haul flights will be needed to repatriate all the migrants. According to UNHCR, increasing accounts of violence and harassment in Libya against sub-Saharan Africans are alarming. The accounts come from eastern and western areas. They include beating, intimidation, sexual violence, and theft of personal property and immigration documents.

"All parties to the conflict in Libya must take care to ensure that civilians are protected from harm," ERC Amos said today. "I am deeply concerned about the reportedly indiscriminate nature of the fighting, and particularly the use of heavy artillery and aerial bombardments. We are also hearing reports of hospital closures at the very time when people most need medical care."

At the Tunisian border with Libya, the number of arrivals has dropped considerably compared to a week ago, with 2,485 people arriving on 7 March. The reduced numbers coincided with intensified fighting in western Libya, which has reduced mobility.

Accounts from people who have arrived during recent days describe numerous military road blocks along the road to Tunisia. The majority of people reported that they were searched for mobile phones, memory cards and sim cards. Satellite imagery shows there are two functional security checkpoints along the main road between the Tunisia-Libya border crossing at Ras Edjir and the town of Abu Kammash 19km to the east.

While checkpoints are actively controlling road traffic, there are no associated large concentrations of people or vehicle traffic. This suggests that these sites are not responsible for the reduced number of people reaching the border at Ras Edjir, according to satellite imagery from 3 and 4 March. It is possible that there are additional security checkpoints or temporary roadblocks located east of Abu Kammash, which could be responsible for the reduction in traffic. IOM sources in Libya indicate that there are thousands more foreigners, including Bangladeshis, who may decide to leave if conditions deteriorate.

 More>> OCHA Situation Report #8 [English - Arabic]

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