GENEVA - United Nations aid agencies are expressing deep concern for the safety of civilians in Tripoli as fighting moves closer from the outskirts to the center of the Libyan capital. Troops fighting for renegade general Khalifa Haftar began their battle to seize Tripoli on April 5.
U.N. aid agencies are particularly worried about the situation of some 4,000 refugees and migrants, most from sub-Saharan Africa, who are held in government detention centers in and around Tripoli. Of particular concern are more than 1,500 believed to be trapped in several places of detention close to where the clashes are occurring.
U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Liz Throssell tells VOA her agency is in contact with Libyan authorities, working to guarantee the safety of those detained near the combat zones.
“This includes advocating with the authorities to allow the relocation of vulnerable individuals to the gathering and departure center," she said. "As you can imagine, this is complicated by the severely restricted access amid the security situation. And, to date, we have facilitated relocation of about 150 vulnerable refugees from the Ain Zara detention center.”
Throssell says the UNHCR has set up a hot line for refugees and internally displaced people stuck in areas of conflict seeking assistance. She says her agency has transferred medicine and medical equipment to the Ministry of Health. This is to support emergency units and hospitals around Tripoli.
The World Health Organization reports the number of people killed since the conflict erupted April 5 now stands at 174, including 14 civilians. More than 750 have been wounded.
Despite the dangerous security situation, the International Organization for Migration reports one bit of good news. It says it was able to organize a humanitarian relief flight Monday to repatriate 136 migrants to Nigeria.