[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Africans trapped in southern Libya fear for lives-aid agencies

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Sep 06 2011 - 16:45:07 EDT

Africans trapped in southern Libya fear for lives-aid agencies

Tue Sep 6, 2011 5:59pm GMT

* Sub-Saharan migrants fear being caught in crossfire, agency says

* Migrants in Libya increasingly target of discrimination, violence

* ICRC has visited 900 detainees in Tripoli including many migrants (Adds
statement by ICRC, more details from IOM)

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Thousands of African migrants trapped in Libya
are in need of protection from growing harassment and hundreds more have
been arrested by rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, aid agencies said on

More than 1,200 African migrants stranded in a southern Libyan desert town
held by forces loyal to the fallen leader fear for their lives and must be
evacuated as quickly as possible, the International Organization for
Migration said.

The IOM called on all sides to protect the workers, mainly from Chad but
also Niger, Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria, until they can be safely evacuated
from its transit centre in Sabha. The group includes women and children.

"The migrants are terrified at the idea of being caught in the crossfire,"
IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy told a news briefing, alluding to the
possibility of forces from Libya's new transitional authority storming Sabha
if negotiations fail.

A separate group of 1,000 sub-Saharan Africans have taken refuge in the
military port of Sidi Bilal, west of Tripoli, in precarious conditions and
should be transferred to a safer location, the International Committee of
the Red Cross said.

"The ICRC is concerned about the stigmatisation of sub-Saharan Africans and
certain Libyan communities in Tripoli and elsewhere in the country," it said
in a statement.

ICRC officials on Sunday visited more than 700 detainees -- including many
sub-Saharan Africans -- being held in a major detention facility run by the
new Tripoli Council, it said.

"These are newly arrested people," ICRC spokesman Steven Anderson told

In all, since the start of the fighting in Tripoli more than two weeks ago,
it has visited 900 detainees in the city.

"The (new) authorities have been very cooperative and our delegates were
able to carry out private interviews with detainees of their choice.
However, the ICRC still hasn't obtained access to all detention places in
the country," said Georges Comninos, head of the ICRC delegation in Tripoli.

Some 240 Sudanese oil workers are stranded in the town of Brega, which lacks
electricity and reliable water supplies, as well as a functioning hospital,
according to the ICRC.


Sub-Saharan migrants have lived and worked in Libya for decades. Many have
suffered increasing abuse during the conflict, sometimes accused of being
mercenaries fighting alongside pro-Gaddafi forces against rebels who toppled
him two weeks ago, according to the Geneva-based IOM.

"Sub-Saharan Africans have been subject to discrimination, physical and
verbal violence and stigma which unfortunately worsened during the last days
and weeks of the Gaddafi regime. Allegations that mercenaries from countries
like Chad or Niger were fighting alongside Gaddafi forces only exacerbated
rancour against nationals from these countries," Chauzy said.

Asked about reports migrants may have been lynched, he said: "They talk more
of constant harassment and fear of crossing checkpoints manned by young men
who are armed. We haven't received direct information related to killings,
massacres or lynchings, it is more a pattern of systematic threats."

The United Nations human rights office said it had no evidence of killings
of migrants but had consistent reports of them being subject to arbitrary
detention and harassment.

In a statement, the IOM said "there is no longer any political
infrastructure in Sabha" able to support the migrants until evacuation plans
are organised.

"With no electricity, fuel and little food and water, the situation for the
migrants and those in the town is becoming increasingly difficult," it said,
adding that a high-level IOM delegation was heading soon to Tripoli and
Benghazi for talks.

The IOM evacuated nearly 1,400 vulnerable Chadian and other migrants by air
in July from Sabha.

"However, with the likelihood of an all-out assault on Sabha, this route may
not be feasible," the statement said.

Scores of Libyan army vehicles have crossed the southern desert frontier
into Niger in what may be a dramatic, secretly negotiated bid by Gaddafi for
refuge in a friendly African state, military sources from France and Niger
told Reuters. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved


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