x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Tents set up for Libyan refugees by UAE volunteers

The UAE will send 100 tonnes of aid to Libya by the end of this week, including tents, food, medicine, clothing and blankets.

TUNISIA //A team of UAE volunteers at the Libyan-Tunisian border has set up enough tents to hold 600 refugees, helping to expand a makeshift UN camp where some 15,000 are waiting to return to their home country.

"Each tent is supposed to take 10 people, and comfort, hygiene and waste management are essential," said Mansour Aldhaheri, the deputy leader of the UAE team in Tunisia.

Altogether, the UAE plans to provide 700 tents, enough to house 7,000 refugees, he said. By the end of this week, it will have sent roughly 100 tonnes of aid, including the tents, as well as food, medicine, clothing and blankets.

A second group of UAE relief workers is operating in Salloum, Egypt, the other major border crossing for refugees from Libya.

A third group in Turkey is organising deliveries of food, medicine and blankets to Benghazi, Libya, where the opposition has taken control from Col Muammar Qaddafi.

All three teams, totaling about 150 people, are operating under the UAE Red Crescent. Eventually, 110 of them will be working in Tunisia, where there are currently 25.

They are working alongside Tunisian authorities, international organisations, aid groups and individual volunteers, some of whom drove for hours to reach the camp.

A group of medical experts is standing by in Abu Dhabi in case violence spikes in LIbya and more refugees begin crossing the border with severe injuries, said Mr Aldhaheri.

"If the situation in Libya escalated, and all of a sudden a lot of people are rushing through the borders, then we're going to have them in. They're on 24-hour call," he said.

More than 200,000 migrant workers have fled Libya since violence erupted between rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces in recent weeks. The vast majority of them crossed into Tunisia and Egypt. Most have been evacuated to their home countries, but more than 10,000 - mostly Bangladeshi men - remain.

The International Organisation for Migration has chartered flights to Dhaka for a few thousand Bangladeshis, but dozens more are needed.

The rush of migrants to Tunisia slowed drastically in recent days, from more than 20,000 daily to 2,500 on Monday, said the UN refugee agency, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The drop comes as violence in western Libya has risen. People who recently crossed into Tunisia said they faced dozens of checkpoints, and many were robbed by Libyan security forces, the agency said.

The UNHCR expects 200,000 more residents of Libya to flee and 400,000 remaining in the country to need aid. On Monday it appealed for $160 milliion in aid for the next three months.

chuang@thenational.ae