GENEVA — Up to 1 million foreign workers and others trapped in Libya are expected to need emergency aid because of fighting in the North African nation, aid officials said Monday as they sought $160 million to deal with the crisis.
U.N. officials say that amount is only for the next three months — and they expect the crisis to go on longer than that. The U.N. is also effectively frozen out of sections controlled by leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces and is only seeking humanitarian aid for opposition-controlled areas.
“This appeal is based on a planning scenario projecting up to 400,000 people leaving Libya — including the 200,000 who have left to date — and another 600,000 people inside Libya expected to need humanitarian aid,” said Valerie Amos, the U.N.’s humanitarian and emergency co-ordination chief.
The money is for camp management, food security, nutrition, health care, water, sanitation and hygiene.
Since Feb. 20, about 213,000 foreign workers have fled to Libya’s borders with Tunisia, Egypt, Niger and now Algeria — an estimated 15 per cent of Libya’s foreign population — and hundreds of thousands more are expected to follow over the next three months, according to Amos and international migration officials.
Antonio Guterres, the U.N, high commissioner for refugees, says about 120,000 people have crossed the border into Tunisia from Libya since the crisis began. Most of the rest have gone over into Egypt, while a few thousand others fled into Niger and Algeria.
As part of the emergency appeal by 17 U.N. and other aid organizations, the International Organization for Migration said Monday it is seeking at least $49.2 million to provide food, water, shelter and medical care for up to 65,000 migrant workers caught up in the crisis.
“This still only scratches the surface,” the organization’s spokeswoman Jemini Pandya, who said there were about 1.5 million foreign migrant workers inside Libya before the fighting began.
There has been a steep dropoff in the number of migrant workers crossing over from Libya in recent days, due to a beefed-up presence by Gadhafi’s forces along the way from Tripoli. But the officials say thousands of migrants are still arriving daily at Ras Adjir at the Tunisian border, and at Salum on the Egyptian border.
As of Monday, the migration organization had evacuated 15,000 migrants by air and sea to Egypt, Bangladesh, Ghana, Mali and other countries. Several hundreds more were evacuated by road from Libya. Some 22,500 migrant workers, mainly Bangladeshis, still need to be evacuated home.
Its director, William Lacy Swing, said his agency was “greatly concerned” about those who stick stuck inside Libya.
“Those managing to get out, in particular sub-Saharan Africans, are recounting to us terrible stories of targeting, physical violence and of being held back from leaving,” he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he’s deeply concerned about the plight of the many migrant workers and other civilians who are bearing the brunt of the fighting in Libya, particularly in the western portion that includes Gadhafi’s stronghold in the capital, Tripoli.
Ban appointed former Jordanian foreign minister Abdelilah Al-Khatib as his special envoy to Libyan and urged authorities to ensure the safety of all foreigners and provide unhindered access for humanitarian aid.
He also called for an immediate halt to what he called Gadhafi’s “disproportionate use of force and indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets.”
Meanwhile, a Syrian woman gave birth to a baby daughter on board a ship transporting a group of Syrian’s fleeing from the turmoil in the eastern city of Benghazi, Syria’s official news agency, SANA, said Monday. The baby girl was named Syria, the agency said.