x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Libya's refugees 'need our help'

More than half a million people have fled to neighbouring countries in the wake of violence in Libya.

Stranded foreign workers, refugees from Libya, pass time playing cards by their baggage while waiting for permission to enter Egypt at Al Salloum border crossing.
Stranded foreign workers, refugees from Libya, pass time playing cards by their baggage while waiting for permission to enter Egypt at Al Salloum border crossing.

DUBAI // Almost 12,000 displaced workers from Libya, living in camps just inside Egypt and Tunisia, are increasingly in need of medical and other assistance, the chairman of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment, Ibrahim Bu Milha, said yesterday.

The Establishment is sending Dh10 million in food and medical aid to refugees on Libya's border with Egypt, Mr Bu Milha said. Now UAE businessmen and philanthropists need to get involved as well, he added.

Abdul Razak al Abdullah, chief executive of the Dubai Islamic Humanitarian Foundation, which is also involved in the work, echoed Mr Bu Milha, calling the crisis "an opportunity for us to show the importance of providing humanitarian support".

Mr Bu Milha praised Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for "fully opening his heart and all the doors", and added that the shipments were made possible with support and funds from the Dar El Ber Society, the Sharjah Charity Association, the Dubai Islamic Humanitarian Foundation and private donors.

More than half a million foreign workers and others have left Libya since fighting began there, according to the UN refugee agency. Most have gone home or otherwise found safety, but thousands remain in camps.

"One of the most important issues is that of medical supplies to treat those who have suffered injuries or health problems since the start of the conflict. There are so many issues, so we need bigger co-operation," Mr Bu Milha said.

"We are providing urgent relief to the victims of the events in Libya in order to alleviate their suffering."

Two aid shipments weighing a combined total of about 1.5 million kilograms have already reached Libya's border with Egypt at Al Salloum.

The first shipment included six lorries packed with basic foods including rice, canned goods, milk powder and sugar.

A delegation led by Mr Bu Milha visited the border to assess the situation at the end of March. After their reconnaissance trip, the team ordered another shipment of 17 heavy vehicles carrying food and medical supplies such as antibiotics.

Eight ambulances have been sent, as well as 8,560 boxes of drinking water. Next week, 10 more ambulances will be dispatched along with more medical supplies.

The charity is also providing temporary shelter for at least 300 Libyan families in the Egyptian city of Marsa Matruh, about 220km kilometres from Al Salloum crossing. Mr Bu Milha said a further 2,000 stranded individuals will be provided with ready-made meals on a daily basis.

In Tunisia, meanwhile, the UAE Red Crescent have set up two camps on the border with Libya, said the deputy team leader Mansour Aldhaheri. The organisation has been working in the country since the start of March, building the camps and distributing aid including food and blankets.

The newer of the two camps is in Dehaba, where refugees recently begun crossing from Libya. So far local hosts have taken many of them in, though their capacity is "extremely strained", the UN said in a report on Tuesday.

Altogether nearly 8,400 are currently encamped in Tunisia, down from the peak of 17,000 about a month ago. Most of the refugees are migrant workers who are being flown home within days or weeks. Some from conflict-ridden countries such as Somalia, however, cannot leave as easily.

The first of the two UAE camps in Tunisia is set up near the main refugee border crossing at Ras Adjir, about four hours' drive north from Dehaba, where the UN have also set up tents.

As of April 10, some 5,500 refugees were taking shelter there, a quarter of them in the UAE camp, according to the UN. Most of those living at the UAE camp were families from Sudan and other African countries, said Mr Aldhaheri.

Most of the Emirati tents have been reserved for families. Three tents in the camp are serving as medical clinics and one as a mosque, erected facing Mecca.

A refugee who gave birth in one of the clinics named her baby Khalifa in honour of the UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa, said Mr Aldhaheri.