An inter-agency assessment mission to the remote southeastern Libyan town of Al-Kufrah has found around 3,000 to 4,000 African migrants living under horrific conditions in a camp on the outskirts of the town. The U.N. and private aid agencies on the mission report the mainly Chadian and Sudanese migrants have no basic services, are subject to theft and physical assault and are desperate to leave.
The assessment team says the African migrants are in desperate need of help. It says they are living under basic shelter and without access to running water, sanitation, electricity or security.
Spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, Jemini Pandya, says the migrants are living under very flimsy, open structures. She says the rudimentary shelters are constructed from anything they can find-bits of plastic or clothing. And, these are tacked onto wooden branches, which are then covered with straw.
“Migrants expressed to IOM their concern, in particular about security issues in the camp and the lack of health care," said Pandya. "There is no surrounding fence or wall around the area to protect the migrants and they said that they suffered very much from theft, physical assault and sometimes murder as people enter the camp from the town at night and steal their belongings at gunpoint.”
The camp is near the desert. Given the flimsy nature of the shelters, Pandya says the migrants are constantly being bitten by scorpions. She says migrants have to make a 20-kilometer round trip to get medical treatment. If they return home at night, she says they often are prey to bandits.
The camp at Al-Kufrah was established many years ago. It housed the many African migrants who were en route to Benghazi or to Europe in search of work. Prior to the outbreak of the conflict in Libya, an estimated 15,000 migrants, mainly Chadians and Sudanese, lived there.
Pandya says the camp population fluctuates on a daily basis as migrants arrive or leave for Benghazi, which is some 600 kilometers away. She says the Africans currently residing in the camp are desperate to get away.
“A representative for the Chadian migrants at the camp told IOM that about 1,000 of his compatriots want to return home but have no money to pay for transport with many Sudanese migrants also in a similar position," said Pandya. "Now, the assessment team…also found other migrants from various nationalities living elsewhere in al-Kufrah, working as casual laborers, working as farm workers or carrying out menial tasks.”
Al-Kufrah is in a remote area near the Sudanese border.The assessment team found the lack of healthcare to be a major concern. It says the city hospital is in terrible condition, lacks the most basic medicines and only has one or two surgeons.
It notes most of the doctors and nurses on staff had been Egyptian migrants who returned home at the start of the crisis. It says a few North Korean and Pakistani healthcare workers remain in the town.