Thousands of migrants still stranded in Libya: IOM

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Some 625 000 migrants have fled Libya since February, but many thousands remain stranded in isolated desert areas in the south, said the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Before civil war broke out, Libya was host to an estimated 1.5-2.5 million migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, who worked in the oil and construction industries or the health sector, IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya said.

It was not clear how many remain, but many have lived in the country for decades and only leave as a last resort as their families depend on their remittances, the aid agency said, Reuters reports.
“We continue to receive reports of more and more groups of migrants who are scattered around the country and unable to get out. This includes a report of least 1,000 migrants in and around the southeastern town of Kufra, which is a desert oasis and really very remote,” Pandya told a news briefing.

Although hundreds of thousands have fled via Egypt and Tunisia, many are believed to be hiding in fear because of their irregular status or inability to leave Libya, she said.

Rebel leaders won recognition as the legitimate government of Libya from the United States and other world powers on Friday in a major boost to the rebels’ faltering campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi.

Last week the IOM conducted its first rescue airlift from government-controlled southern Libya, evacuating 529 migrants, mainly Chadian, from the town of Sebha.

A further 600 African migrants have requested evacuation from Sebha and community elders have told the IOM that 3,000 Sudanese in the area may want to be rescued, Pandya said.
“Many migrants have been living out in the open in the brutal desert sun without any shelter and humanitarian assistance,” she said.

Some 1,000 Chadian migrants are stuck near the southern town of Gatroun, mainly women, children and elderly people, and lack food and water, according to the spokeswoman.

Poor security and banditry have made it impossible to organise a convoy to take all 1,000 from Gatroun to Sebha, but the agency has begun to move them in small groups, Pandya said.
“As time goes on and as we are able to access more places, we will find more people who need help,” she said.

A ship carrying 231 mainly African migrants evacuated from Misrata was due to arrive later on Friday in the eastern rebel-held town of Benghazi, Pandya said.



In all, more than 8,100 people have been evacuated from Misrata on 12 IOM-chartered ships since April, including some wounded in fighting between rebels and Gaddafi’s forces.