Caritas Seeks Aid for Migrants in Libya

Workers Trying to Get Home, Out of Conflict

ROME, MARCH 4, 2011 ( Caritas teams are tying to assist the thousands of people seeking to leave Libya as the country spins toward civil war.

The aid organization reported today that around 6,000 migrant workers are stranded in Salloum, on the Egyptian-Libyan border, and around 5,000 people are arriving daily.

Caritas said the Asian and African migrants are waiting two to six days to be processed through the border, due to lack of documentation or lack of embassy support to assist in repatriation efforts.

Basic needs are being met, according to the aid workers, but a Catholic Relief Services representative for Egypt, Jason Belanger, said, “The Caritas response is looking at providing food, bottled water, hand sanitizers, and blankets as it’s quite cold at night. We’re looking at ways to improve sanitation. We’re also looking at providing some counseling, although people are not traumatized. Mostly they’re tired, and they just want to go home.”

The team added that the Egyptian military seems to be effectively looking after the migrants.

Most of the African migrant workers are from the Darfur region of Sudan.

On the other side of the country, at the border with Tunisia, the Caritas response is similar.

According to the International Organization for Migration, close to 175,000 people, mostly migrant workers, had left Libya by Wednesday. Of those, about 45% headed to Egypt, and 53% headed to Tunisia. Another significant group went to Niger.

However, prior to the crisis, the IOM estimated there were 2.5 million migrant workers in Libya, with 1 million of them being Egyptians.

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