Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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TRIPOLI — An Arab rights group called on Monday for international help for 360 sub-Saharan migrants who Libyan authorities say were rescued after having been abandoned in the desert by Tunisian police on the border with Libya. The Cairo-based Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR) said it welcomed Libya’s reception of the migrants who had “experienced difficult humanitarian conditions” before being picked up by Libyan border guards.

“According to Libyan border guards, 360 migrants including women and children need urgent humanitarian and medical aid,” the AOHR’s Libya chapter said, urging Libyan authorities to “authorise the concerned organisations — the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration [IOM] — to meet them and help with legal procedures”. The IOM in Libya said on Monday it had provided “emergency humanitarian assistance to migrants rescued at the border with Tunisia”.

It said, “191 migrants were provided with hygiene kits, clothes, mattresses & screened for medical, protection and psychosocial assistance”. Libya’s interior ministry said on Monday it had “documented the expulsions by the Tunisian authorities towards the Libyan border” and posted a video on Facebook showing migrants telling their stories.

On Sunday, Libyan border patrols rescued dozens of migrants who had been abandoned in the desert without water, food or shelter near the border with Tunisia, AFP journalists said. The migrants, whom the border guards said had been abandoned by Tunisian police, were found in an uninhabited area near Al Assah 150 kilometres west of Tripoli and around 15 kilometres inside Libyan territory.

An AFP team at the border saw the visibly exhausted and dehydrated migrants sitting or lying on the sand and using shrubs to try to shield themselves from the scorching summer heat that topped 40°C.  Hundreds of migrants from sub-Saharan African countries were forcibly taken to desert and hostile areas bordering Libya and Algeria after racial unrest in early July in Sfax, Tunisia’s second-largest city. The trouble flared after the July 3 killing of a Tunisian man in an altercation between locals and migrants.

The port of Sfax is a departure point for many migrants from impoverished and violence-torn countries seeking a better life in Europe by making a perilous Mediterranean crossing. The Tunisian Red Crescent said it has provided shelter to at least 630 migrants who had been taken after July 3 to the militarised border zone of Ras Jedir, north of Al Assah, on the Mediterranean coast. On Sunday, Tunisia and the European Union signed a memorandum of understanding for a “strategic and comprehensive partnership” that includes financial assistance of 10 million euros to help deal with irregular migration.

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