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Agency Appeals for More Money For Migrants Fleeing Libya


Men, who used to work in Libya and fled the unrest in the country, carry their belongings as they walk during a sand storm in a refugee camp at the Tunisia-Libyan border, in Ras Ajdir, Tunisia, March 15, 2011

Men, who used to work in Libya and fled the unrest in the country, carry their belongings as they walk during a sand storm in a refugee camp at the Tunisia-Libyan border, in Ras Ajdir, Tunisia, March 15, 2011

The International Organization for Migration is appealing for nearly $160 million to continue assisting migrants who are fleeing the Libyan crisis. It says thousands of migrants are stranded at Libya’s border with Tunisia and Egypt desperate to return home.

This is the third appeal IOM has launched since the Libyan crisis began in late February. Spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, Jemini Pandya, says the organization has received only $44 million, some in pledges and some in cash. She notes this is far short of what is required.

“And, as a result, as of today, I can tell you that… money for IOM Operations has dried up," she said. "We have been forced to dramatically reduce the number of people we can evacuate on a daily basis. And, this goes from a height of more than 6,000 people a day to an absolute bare minimum. This is despite the fact that at least 6,000 are crossing each day into Egypt and Tunisia and now many thousands more into Chad and Niger.”

Over the past six weeks, nearly 410,000 people have fled the violence in Libya. The majority of them are migrants who need help to return home.

Pandya says IOM, with the support of the UN refugee agency and various governments have transported nearly 84,000 migrants from the region to their home countries. In addition, she says IOM has safely evacuated at least 2,310 people from the Libyan rebel-controlled city of Benghazi to Egypt by road or sea.

“The appeal to the international community today would allow the Organization to evacuate an additional 75,000 people who managed to escape the violence in Libya as well as those groups still inside the country where possible," Pandya said. "It would also enable the continued provision of humanitarian assistance such as food and medical attention at the border areas, travel health checks for all of those being evacuated and health referrals for those who are particularly vulnerable in addition to providing reintegration assistance to Egyptian and Tunisian migrants who have already returned home.”

IOM reports more than 12,000 migrants remain stranded on Libya’s border with Tunisia and Egypt with more migrants in need of help in Niger, Algeria and Chad.

Pandya says those waiting for help in Tunisia and Egypt are becoming increasingly impatient to return home. She says they are looking for alternative solutions to their problem.

She says the long wait is forcing some migrants to turn to human smugglers to take them to Europe. She says the journey across the sea in flimsy boats can be dangerous and some migrants have drowned during the crossing.

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