IOM Libya Aids Migrants Rescued at Sea
GENEVA, Switzerland, May 12, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A rising number of shipwrecks is happening near the Libyan coast as migrants continue to embark towards Italy aboard unseaworthy vessels. Many of the boats are intercepted by the Libyan Naval Coast Guard before they even can reach the high seas. This has increased the number of migrants in need of urgent assistance in various Libyan ports.
“The number of migrants departing who have up to now been trapped in Libya is soaring,” says IOM Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi. “This is partly due to calmer seas that are encouraging people to take the voyage. Many migrants are using any kind of boat that can float and as a result the number of migrants perishing at sea is soaring.”
The Libyan Naval Coast Guard, hampered by a lack of resources and suitable equipment, has been carrying out a growing number of operations to rescue migrants in distress. So far, over 1,800 migrants have been rescued by the Coast Guard following distress calls or interceptions close to shore.
“The Libyan Naval Coast Guard is trying to rescue as many people as possible. What is worrying is the condition of many of the migrants when they disembark in Libya. Many are sick or have sustained injuries during rescue operations, but medical assistance, like other humanitarian assistance, is scarce in Libya,” says Belbeisi. “There are also large numbers of women and children among them.”
IOM's office in Tripoli is now providing direct assistance, including non-food relief items and hygiene kits, to migrants rescued at sea.
“This is a humanitarian emergency that involves all of us and needs urgent attention,” notes Belbeisi.
Besides responding to their immediate needs, IOM partners are providing psychosocial support to the most vulnerable migrants including women, unaccompanied minors and children.
The security situation inside Libya is very challenging and the movement of IOM staff is largely limited to Tripoli. But IOM still is providing humanitarian assistance through local partners to internally displaced people and migrants in centres run by the Ministry of Interior in various parts of Libya.
The programme, which is supported by the European Union, has reached over 2,900 displaced families and 2,600 migrants, including those who have been rescued at sea.