IOM was to evacuate 900 Egyptian migrants from Tunisia to Egypt Monday through five charter flights with another 900 due to leave Tuesday March 1.
The Organization was also evacuating a group of 361 Bangladeshi migrants and 174 Malians from Tunisia Monday with more planned for Tuesday.
A sea evacuation of about 2,000 Egyptian migrants from the port at Djerba has also been planned but bad weather has so far hampered efforts. IOM expects this operation to get underway in the coming days as the weather improves.
In addition, IOM is looking to evacuate thousands of Egyptians stranded in the Libyan port city of Benghazi by sea to Alexandria in Egypt.
“IOM urgently needs donors to fund its initial appeal for $11 million launched last week as soon as possible. We are using our reserves to provide immediate assistance, so desperately needed by the many tens of thousands of migrants who have already fled and many, many more still inside Libya desperately calling us for help,” says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.
“We urge all parties in Libya to refrain from targeting migrants who have for decades contributed to the growth and well-being of Libyan economy and to let those who wish to leave, to do so safely and in dignity.”
More than 100,000 migrants from many nationalities have escaped into Tunisia and Egypt, with a growing number now stranded at Libya’s borders with Egypt and Tunisia.
About 12,000 non-Tunisian migrants alone crossed the Tunisian border at Ras Adjir on Sunday.
With the large outflows putting enormous strain on the local infrastructure, in Tunisia in particular, it is imperative to be able to evacuate the migrants as soon as possible.
IOM is establishing two transit centers for 800 migrants at Ras Adjir to help ease the pressure on another centre currently being managed by the Tunisian Red Crescent.
With very low temperatures at night and strong desert winds, shelter as well as water and sanitation assistance is critical.
An IOM team found a group of about 600 Vietnamese migrants without papers at the border point trying to find some element of shelter from the elements but in the end forced to sleep in the open. The Organization is making arrangements to evacuate this group of migrants shortly. Although the Vietnamese migrants told IOM another 1,000 of their compatriots were on their way, at least 5,000 Vietnamese of an estimated 10,500 in Libya are still stuck inside the country.
In Egypt, where 7,000 migrants are stranded in a compound in no-man’s land between the two countries without papers or food or water, the situation is also difficult.
IOM, with teams working on the border at Salloum and at Marsa Matroh further inland, has begun registration of the non-Egyptian migrants in no-mans land in order to organize their evacuation.
The majority of the migrants there are Bangladeshi nationals with a first group of over 450 due to depart in the next few days.
In coordination with the Egyptian authorities, IOM is also providing the migrants with humanitarian assistance including blankets, food and water.
Meanwhile, nearly 800 Nigerian migrants have been taken to Agadez in northern Niger from IOM’s reception and transit centre in Dirkou. Another 432 Nigerians have arrived today and will be transferred to Agadez as soon as possible.
With the capacity of the centre fully stretched, IOM is currently working with local authorities and the Nigerian Red Cross to increase it in order to accommodate the new arrivals. Tents will be set up on an adjacent plot of land. However, there is an urgent need for food, water and sanitation assistance.
This will become even more essential as Nigerian authorities in this northern part of the country have told IOM that there are more than 30 trucks carrying more than 2,000 Nigerians and other Africans on board on Niger’s border with Libya. They are expected in Dirkou within the next 24 hours.
The migrants being taken to Agadez have told IOM that they have escaped from Tripoli, Misrata and Sabah. They also spoke about the thousands of Sub-Saharan Africans holed up inside their homes without any assistance at various places including Moursouk, Sabah, Misrata, Tripoli and Benghazi, desperately searching for vehicles to escape the targeted violence they feel is coming their way.
IOM is regularly receiving calls and messages from migrants and refugees inside Libya in a desperate situation.
The Organization is calling for migrants and refugees in Libya not to be targeted and for the safe passage for all those seeking to leave the country.
“We would urge migrants still in Libya fearing violence against them to stay put for the moment if they are in a safe place and out of sight,” says IOM’s Director of Operations, Mohammed Abdiker.