Libya: Migrants Trapped in Tripoli Need Aid and Protection

Hundreds of vulnerable migrants and refugees in Tripoli are living in appalling conditions without proper medical care or security.

TRIPOLI, AUGUST 30, 2011 - Hundreds of vulnerable migrants and refugees in Tripoli are living in appalling conditions without proper medical care or security, according to the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has begun providing basic health care to two communities of displaced foreign nationals in need of urgent protection and assistance.

A community of approximately 1,000 refugees and migrants is living in and around boats on an abandoned military base at a Tripoli port, while another 200 people have sought shelter on a farm since fighting broke out in southern areas of Tripoli.

?Many of these people already fled from fighting in their home countries, such as Somalia, Sudan or other African countries,? said Simon Burroughs, MSF emergency coordinator in Tripoli. ?Some people came to these makeshift camps looking for a way to cross by boat to Europe, while others came to seek refuge from the fighting in Tripoli. All of them remain trapped with nowhere to go.?

MSF has provided medical consultations in both locations and is planning to distribute clean drinking water and hygiene items.

?Many are suffering from respiratory infections, skin diseases, and gastro-intestinal complaints,? said MSF Medical Coordinator Dr. Paulo Reis. ?These medical problems are linked to their very poor living conditions. Most of the medical conditions we have treated are also stress-related, including difficulty sleeping at night due to extreme and constant fear.?

Patients have told MSF how they are unable to leave the makeshift camps for fear of being harassed, beaten, or arrested within the city. They said they have been threatened at night by unidentified armed men. Those migrants staying on the farm have been ordered to leave immediately.

National authorities, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) need to ensure the protection and basic needs of the refugees and migrants trapped in and around Tripoli.

MSF, which provides assistance to refugees and migrants in Tunisia and in southern Italy, stresses that international borders must remain open; both neighboring states and European governments must ensure that people have access to asylum procedures and humane reception conditions.

In Tripoli, MSF continues to support strained medical facilities with supplies and staff. MSF medical and surgical teams are supporting Libyan medical staff in Tripoli?s Central Hospital and in the Ben Ashour Clinic. A boat with more than 10 tons of medical and logistical supplies arrived today in Tripoli.

MSF has been present in Libya since February 25 and currently provides impartial medical and humanitarian assistance in Benghazi, Misrata, Tripoli, Yefren, Zawiyah, Zintan, and Zlitan. To ensure the independence of its medical work, MSF relies solely on private donations to fund its activities in Libya and does not accept funding from any government, donor agency, or from any military or politically-affiliated group.