- Category: Diaspora
- Published on Thursday, 08 September 2011 04:14
- Written by Admin
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Thousands of African migrants trapped in Libya are in need of protection from growing harassment and hundreds more have been arrested by rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, aid agencies said on Tuesday.
The IOM called on all sides to protect the workers, mainly from Chad but also Niger, Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria, until they can be safely evacuated from its transit centre in Sabha. The group includes women and children.
"The migrants are terrified at the idea of being caught in the crossfire," IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy told a news briefing, alluding to the possibility of forces from Libya's new transitional authority storming Sabha if negotiations fail.
A separate group of 1,000 sub-Saharan Africans have taken refuge in the military port of Sidi Bilal, west of Tripoli, in precarious conditions and should be transferred to a safer location, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
"The ICRC is concerned about the stigmatisation of sub-Saharan Africans and certain Libyan communities in Tripoli and elsewhere in the country," it said in a statement.
ICRC officials on Sunday visited more than 700 detainees -- including many sub-Saharan Africans -- being held in a major detention facility run by the new Tripoli Council, it said.
"These are newly arrested people," ICRC spokesman Steven Anderson told Reuters.
In all, since the start of the fighting in Tripoli more than two weeks ago, it has visited 900 detainees in the city.
"The (new) authorities have been very cooperative and our delegates were able to carry out private interviews with detainees of their choice. However, the ICRC still hasn't obtained access to all detention places in the country," said Georges Comninos, head of the ICRC delegation in Tripoli.
Some 240 Sudanese oil workers are stranded in the town of Brega, which lacks electricity and reliable water supplies, as well as a functioning hospital, according to the ICRC.
Sub-Saharan migrants have lived and worked in Libya for decades. Many have suffered increasing abuse during the conflict, sometimes accused of being mercenaries fighting alongside pro-Gaddafi forces against rebels who toppled him two weeks ago, according to the Geneva-based IOM.
"Sub-Saharan Africans have been subject to discrimination, physical and verbal violence and stigma which unfortunately worsened during the last days and weeks of the Gaddafi regime. Allegations that mercenaries from countries like Chad or Niger were fighting alongside Gaddafi forces only exacerbated rancour against nationals from these countries," Chauzy said.
Asked about reports migrants may have been lynched, he said: "They talk more of constant harassment and fear of crossing checkpoints manned by young men who are armed. We haven't received direct information related to killings, massacres or lynchings, it is more a pattern of systematic threats."
The United Nations human rights office said it had no evidence of killings of migrants but had consistent reports of them being subject to arbitrary detention and harassment.
In a statement, the IOM said "there is no longer any political infrastructure in Sabha" able to support the migrants until evacuation plans are organised.
"With no electricity, fuel and little food and water, the situation for the migrants and those in the town is becoming increasingly difficult," it said, adding that a high-level IOM delegation was heading soon to Tripoli and Benghazi for talks.
The IOM evacuated nearly 1,400 vulnerable Chadian and other migrants by air in July from Sabha.
"However, with the likelihood of an all-out assault on Sabha, this route may not be feasible," the statement said.
Scores of Libyan army vehicles have crossed the southern desert frontier into Niger in what may be a dramatic, secretly negotiated bid by Gaddafi for refuge in a friendly African state, military sources from France and Niger told Reuters. (Reuters)