Migrants at great risk in Libya’s social unrests
03 March 2011
Caritas members from around the world are seeking ways to help migrants and Libyans fleeing the social unrest in Libya.
Bangladeshi workers are returning to Dhaka from Libya. Upon return each returnee was given some money, food and transport facilities to reach bus terminal and railway station.
More than 100,000 people have already arrived in Tunisia and Egypt. More migrant workers are expected to arrive on Libyan borders as violence continues in the North African country.
Caritas has sent two Emergency Response Teams to the Libyan-Egyptian and the Libyan-Tunisian borders in order to assess the migrant workers' needs and set up emergency aid. (View pictures from the Libyan-Egyptian and the Libyan-Tunisian border.) In addition to that, Caritas is working in close collaboration with its national member organisations in Niger and Libya.
Migrants living in Libya are in a particularly vulnerable situation. Libya counts 500,000 to 1.5 million immigrants. Most of them are from sub-Saharan Africa and were stranded in Libya while trying to reach Europe.
Whereas many Tunisian and Egyptian nationals have managed to regain their home country, migrants from other countries are less fortunate.
“They can’t get in touch with their governments, which, besides, aren’t doing anything to help them,” said Fr. Alan Arcebuche, Director of Caritas Libya, to the Italian newspaper Avvenire.
Libya is also one of the major destination countries for Bangladeshi migrants. Around 50,000 to 60,000 Bangladeshis live there according to the government of Bangladesh, most of them working in the construction sector or for foreign-owned companies. Thousands now had to flee the unrest and are stranded at Libyan borders.
Caritas Bangladesh and several other migrant associations organised a “Human Chain” on 28 February in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka to raise awareness for the migrant’s fate and urge their government to step in. They were joined by hundreds of the migrant workers families from different districts of the country.
Caritas and the other participating organizations also submitted a report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangladesh, urging the government to provide food and water, ensure the migrant’s safety and if possible evacuate them. Some of these recommendations have already been taken into account by the Bangladeshi government.
Meanwhile, Caritas services for migrants in Libya cannot function properly due to the social unrests. Three Franciscan sisters working at a Caritas Centre for migrants in the capital Tripoli for example had to barricade themselves in their homes. “There is no way we can go to the centre where we take care of migrants,” said Sr. Sherly Joseph. The sisters said they felt relatively safe at the moment, but regretted that they could not keep the migrant’s centre open.
The Bishop of Tripoli, Mgr Giovanni Martinelli recognized the support that Catholic church institutions were getting from other faith-based organizations. “We got in touch with the Red Crescent and other Muslim organisations to ask them for their protection for our churches and convents and also for the faithful and sisters working in hospitals,” he said.
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