GENEVA, Switzerland, November 12, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The recent conflict continues to affect thousands in Libya, with displaced people and migrants hardest hit. The lack of stability and security has worsened their situation over the last three months. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Libyan Red Crescent Society (LRCS) are helping separated families restore contact and improving facilities for migrants.
“Thousands of migrants are still living under extremely difficult conditions. The volatility of the situation and the absence of a clear legal framework for their presence in the country are complicating their situation,” explained Katharina Ritz, head of the ICRC in Libya. “Some are living under acceptable conditions in migrant retention centres, but most migrants lack adequate shelter and medical services.”
Most retention centres where migrants were held in southern Libya have closed temporarily. The closures, coupled with delays in the repatriation process, have left western Libya’s Al-Hamra retention centre packed. In addition, the centre has become a hub for migrants arriving from Mali, Niger, Eritrea or Somalia and elsewhere.
Medical care and phone calls – looking after bodies and minds
In early October, the ICRC and the LRCS visited the centre, mainly so that people held there could communicate with their families outside Libya. “We are also following up on some pressing health problems such as scabies,” explained Vaughan Phillips, an ICRC delegate who participated in the visit.
Between 27 and 30 October, 1,300 people in the retention centre had the opportunity to speak to their families by phone. A doctor, a nurse and first-aid personnel from the LRCS treated a number of migrants who needed immediate medical attention.
Joint ICRC/LRCS teams also visited other retention centres for the first time since last year, including Tuwayshah and Goweya in Tripoli and Hawari in Benghazi, where migrants were able to contact their families.
The ICRC is planning to start a hygiene campaign at Al-Hamra in the coming two weeks. Other international organizations are joining the effort and have been asked to provide medical assistance. Some have already started distributing jerrycans, hygiene kits, mattresses, clothes and blankets. “We want to ensure that Al-Hamra is free of disease. Migrants will have better water and more of it, which will enable them to improve their hygiene,” said Ms Ritz.
Renovating a Benghazi IDP camp
Established at the start of the Libyan conflict in 2011, the camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Benghazi hosted people from various regions in Libya. “The camp received displaced people fleeing the fighting,” explains Muhammad al-Misrati, who is in charge of public relations at the LRCS in Benghazi, “They included large numbers of foreigners on their way out of Libya.”
The camp used to host 900 people, the majority of whom were migrants. The migrants have now been moved to another camp, and the Benghazi camp now accommodates only Libyan IDPs. Nearly 700 people are still living there, according to the LRCS.
The ICRC and the LRCS have launched a maintenance programme to improve living conditions. This will include repairing water and sewage pipes. “Leaking water used to be a problem,” explained Joana Cameira, the engineer responsible for ICRC water projects in Libya. “There was also a lack of electricity, in places like the kitchens and bathrooms. But all this is history now.” Cameira added that the project included construction of a laundry area and the installation of a new main gate to the compound.
Hygiene kits and food
In September 2013, the ICRC donated nearly 63 tonnes of rice and 5,000 hygiene kits to the Libyan Red Crescent in Tripoli, which passed them on to 15 branches across the country. By mid-October, the LRCS had distributed all this aid to IDPs, refugees and migrants held at retention centres.
Libya Aid, a major local relief organization, had planned to organize food distributions in Benghazi and asked the ICRC to supply some types of food that they did not have. The ICRC donated 35 tonnes of food, which Libya Aid distributed at seven IDP camps in Benghazi and to displaced people who have been sheltering in houses in the city since 2011.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)