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Thousands of Chadian Migrants Stranded in Southern Libyan Desert

  • Kim Lewis

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says it is racing against time trying to save the lives of about 2,000 Chadian migrants in southern Libya. It says they’re mostly women, children and the elderly in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medical aid.

They have been stranded in the towns of Sebha and Gatroun for the past five to seven weeks because of clashes between government and rebel forces. They’re prey to bandits and have no way to get out of the area.

“They’ve been living in very difficult conditions outdoors,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy of the IOM in Geneva. “During the day the temperature is very, very hot. It is cold at night. Those migrants have little to no access to food, water, sanitation, medical assistance,” which he said is why there is a sense of urgency.

They are desperate to get home, said Chauzy, but have not been able to because of conditions between Gatroun and the Chadian border. As a result the IOM has been working to return the group to Chad.

“We had an assessment mission that left Chad a few days ago. That [mission] has now arrived on site and were the first to get through to Sebha and meet those migrants,” he said. “As of today we started distributing food, water, some hygiene materials. We’re working also with the Libyan Red Crescent to provide some medical assistance to the migrants.”

Chauzy said the members of the IOM mission hope that in the next few days they will “be able to organize the evacuation by air from the airport in Sebha and obviously we would fly those vulnerable migrants back to Chad.”

The number of migrants could increase in the coming days, he said, because the IOM thinks there may be more still stranded in southern Libya.

The organization is also organizing flights back to Niamey for migrants from Niger.