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Migrants Rescued from Libyan City of Misrata


An evacuee reaches out for his luggage at the Libyan Red Crescent camp in Benghazi Apr 16 2011

An evacuee reaches out for his luggage at the Libyan Red Crescent camp in Benghazi Apr 16 2011

The International Organization for Migration reports 650 of the rescued migrants are Ghanaians. Other nationalities include Filipinos and Ukrainians. IOM says there are 100 Libyans among those rescued, 23 of whom are war-wounded, including a child shot in the face and an amputee.

Rebel-held Misrata has been under siege by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for nearly two months. IOM spokeswoman, Jemini Pandya says the situation is deteriorating hour by hour, with shelling going on almost continuously. She says the rescue mission was carried out under extremely risky circumstances.

"Our staff on board the boat report that while we were boarding the migrants, the shelling and the fighting subsided for a bit and there was this almost eerie silence while they would kind of wait until we had got the people on board and that we would leave," said Pandya.

"It meant that the time that we had at the dock was short and that we could really only get 971 people out," Pandya added. "We would have much preferred to have taken out with us many more people, but we took out as many people as we possibly could in the time that we had."

Pandya says it is becoming increasingly difficult to carry out further rescue missions. She says IOM is very worried about the 4,000 migrants who are stuck at Misrata's port. She says time is running out for them.

She says IOM would like to charter a ship large enough to transport all the migrants out of Misrata at one time. But that takes money, which, she says IOM does not have. She says the agency is running a shortfall of $100 million.

In the meantime, she says the migrants are living in deplorable conditions at the port waiting to be rescued.

"They have been camping out in the port vicinity or in containers or wherever they could find some kind of nominal, very nominal shelter. Some of them are out in the open," said Pandya. "Clearly that means that they have no access to clean water or washing facilities or anything like that. And, they have no means of getting food. So much depends of what they can get from other people, which is not very much."

This is the second rescue mission. Last Friday, an IOM-chartered ship took nearly 1,200 rescued migrants from Misrata to Benghazi. Nearly all of them were later taken by road to the Libyan-Egyptian border at Salum.

Pandya says this action will be repeated with this second group of migrants. In the coming days, she says those who are able to travel will be taken by road to Salum. From there, she says, they will be assisted to return to their home countries.

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