Archive for category UNOCHA

Libya: in suspended animation

Ghaddafi symbolically rubbishes the UN Charter on 23rd September 2009 (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

With nearly a month passing since the last UNOCHA situation update for Libya, the conflict in the troubled North African state appears to have reached a stalemate, welcome in the narrow humanitarian sense but less so in the broader political.

According to UN official figures, well over a million people (mostly expats) have fled Libya since the troubles began on 17th February. An uncertain number (ranging from a few to several thousand) have either perished or have been seriously injured.

Thus far, 14 countries have recognised the TNC according to this press release. Worth noting too that of these, only Gambia and Senegal are African states. Notwithstanding early rhetoric, only three Arab League countries, namely Qatar, the UAE and Jordan have recognised the TNC.  Libya ironically, remains suspended from the Arab League. Did it indeed ever belong?

It is hard to imagine that an legitimate power sharing agreement can be put in place so long as Ghaddafi retains even the vestiges of power. Admittedly he is a potent symbol for some (possibly even many), but for all the wrong reasons.


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In Crisis Situation Report no. 36, the UNOCHA provide an update on the exodus from Libya, in the wake of the February 17 uprising:

The number of people leaving Libya by sea bound in an attempt to reach Europe has risen since the
crisis in Libya began. The majority of these people are third-country nationals (TCNs) from sub-Saharan
Africa desperate to leave the insecurity and uncertainty in Libya. People fleeing are often doing so in
unseaworthy and overloaded vessels. UNHCR has appealed to urgently put in place more reliable and
effective mechanisms for rescue in the Mediterranean. UNHCR has urged states, commercial shipping
companies and others present in the Mediterranean to consider that all boats leaving Libya for Europe
are likely to require assistance.
At least 1,000 people who have fled Libya by boat so far remain unaccounted for.
Early last Friday 6, a boat carrying people fleeing Libya broke up shortly after departing Tripoli. Relatives
of those onboard say the vessel was carrying around 600 people. A senior Somali diplomat in Tripoli
has reported that 16 bodies have been recovered, including two babies. The full death toll is unknown.
Most of those onboard are believed to have been from Sub-Saharan Africa. Hundreds of people are
missing and bodies were seen floating in the sea and washed ashore (some bodies were seen on the
Lampedusa cost). On 25 March, a small boat that had left Tripoli for Italy ran out of fuel and started
drifting. According to survivors who reached Lampedusa, the boat was thrown water and biscuits from a
helicopter. According to reports, 61 of the 72 people on board the boat died of hunger or thirst.
Passengers were expected to operate the boat on their own.

These past days have seen  an increase in arrivals across the Mediterranean: five boats arrived on Lampedusa,
carrying close to 2,400 people on the weekend from 6 to 8 May. Most are sub-Saharan Africans, many
of them women and children. All five boats needed rescuing by the Italian coastguard and maritime
police, with one boat running aground close to the Lampedusa shore. The number of people who have
arrived in Italy and Malta from Libya now stands at 12,360, in a total of some 35 boats (11,230 to Italy
and 1,130 to Malta).

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Crisis Situation Report No. 36

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UNOCHA update 2 May 2011

Highlights of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya • Crisis Situation Report No. 32 • 1 May 2011

Press release

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Dispatches from the Tunisian border

30 April 2011

Highlights UNOCHA

  • Some 634,835 people have fled Libya since the beginning of the conflict (up to 27 April).
  • About 18,500 Libyans crossed into Tunisia at Dehiba between 21 and 27 April
  • The fighting at Dehiba has stopped the outflow of refugees from Libya’s Western Mountains.

Highlights UNHCR

  • UNHCR reports that large numbers of recent arrivals are straining resources at Dehiba.  The vast majority of people (more than 30,000) are being hosted by the local community and UNHCR is working with the authorities to expand the capacity of existing camps and to support host families.
  • African refugees continue to try to make for Europe on their own initiative, and according to a report from the Somali community at the Choucha camp (near the Ras Adjir border crossing), three Somali refugees drowned on Thursday morning after their boat carrying some 280 people heading towards Italy capsized in high seas. These deaths add to the hundreds of people who have drowned or are missing in the desperate attempt to reach the safety of Europe from Libya.

For further information please contact: On the Egyptian border: Helene Caux on mobile: +201 294 66 378 On the Tunisian border: Firas Kayal on mobile +216 508 561 99 In Geneva: Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38

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Humanitarian ship movements cancelled

The Egyptian ship Azura assisted stranded Egyptians in Misurata on 20 April 2011

29 Apr. 2011

Naples, Italy — NATO maritime forces near the Libyan port of Misurata detected a number of small vessels earlier today and, when investigating suspicious activity, disrupted mine-laying operations by pro-Ghaddafi forces designed to threaten the flow of humanitarian aid into Libya.

The sea-mines were being laid two to three kilometres offshore in the approaches to Misurata by deliberately sinking the inflatable boats on which they were being carried. Three mines have been found and are being disposed of in situ.

NATO warned the Misurata port authorities who temporarily closed the facility resulting in two humanitarian ship movements being cancelled.

“The mining of a civilian port by pro-Qadhafi forces is clearly designed to disrupt the lawful flow of humanitarian aid to the innocent civilian people of Libya and is another deliberate violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973”

“NATO forces are now actively engaged in countering the mine threat to ensure the flow of aid continues” 

“NATO urges civilian shipping companies to continue to coordinate with the NATO Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) organization to provide for the safe transit of shipping in the Region.”

Italian Navy Vice Admiral Rinaldo Veri, Commander of the Maritime Headquarters in Naples


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The crisis at a glance

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya • Crisis Situation Report No. 30 26 April 2011

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Games without frontiers

Valerie Amos has the most difficult job in the world. The organisation she heads (The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or UNOCHA) may be the “eyes and ears” of the United Nations Security Council, but she is it’s soul and voice.

Thus far, Valerie Amos and her very able team have reached an uneasy agreement with the Libyan government and have in theory, unfettered access to the Libyan interior

to establish a humanitarian presence in Tripoli and to enable the UNOCHA to move around and see exactly what is happening for themselves

We should also shelve the idea of an immanent humanitarian military intervention (either by the EU or NATO ) provided this latest plan can be implemented to the satisfaction of the UNOCHA which can, in theory at least, ask for “military assets” if they are somehow hindered in their work. The official view on this is that they are “not at that point at all”.

UNOCHA has had intermittent access to the port facilities at Misurata for quite some time, and now rightly, asks for land access via the Tripoli thoroughfare. When the time is right, Col. Ghaddafi, will almost certainly try to play the humanitarian card to leverage political support from the African Union which could cast a long shadow on the way resolution 1973 is implemented.

In the meantime, attacks on Misurata and other opposition held areas continue with undiminished ferocity.

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The humanitarian crisis by numbers

26 April 2011

On 17 April, an agreement was signed between the UN and the Government of Libya, to facilitate humanitarian access into Libya and establish an international UN presence in Tripoli. Below is a summary of the official version of the crisis in Misurata:

300 people were reported killed and 1,000 injured by 18 April with at least 4,700 third-country nationals (TCNs) and Libyans waiting to leave by 24 April.

Children as young as 9 months have been killed, with at least 21 child deaths (UNICEF).

12 evacuation operations have been organized by the humanitarian community (including the Qatari Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Crescent) transporting over 8,500 people mainly TCNs, and war wounded.

Water and electricity has been cut off for over 50 days.

Author’s note: The number of casualties reported includes official hospital figures only. Many fatalities have simply not been recorded. There are numerous reports of civilians being buried where they fell and within 24 hours (according to Islamic law). These figures do not include government forces (regular or foreign mercenaries).

(International Organization for Migration, update 24 April 2011).

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All roads to Qasr Ahmed

The head of OCHA has received assurances that humanitarian aid will be allowed in.

19 April 2011

Various media reports confirm that heavily armed pro-Ghaddafi forces are attempting to violently seize the strategic port of Misurata and to permanently cut off supply lines to the civilian population of Libya’s third largest city. The attack on Misurata’s port facilities is taking place along three main axes:

Along Tripoli street, which provides direct access to the airport from the north and which leads directly to the city centre. Having been the scene of much bitter fighting over the past month, well entrenched government sniper teams are still preventing residents from consolidating their hold on the centre. From here, opposition forces control one of three routes into the port area.

Along the Al-Thaqil road to the east of the airport. This road offers the most direct route to the port which cannot be approached from the south east because of barren open land.

Along the western suburbs where the dense road network and urban landscape provides cover rocket launchers, tanks and mortar teams to attack the civilian population. The western suburbs also offer direct access to a coastal road that leads to the port.

The port is also the scene of refugee camps.

(The Wall Street Journal)

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UNOCHA deliberates over EUFOR LIBYA deployment

19 April 2011

Misurata remains under heavy rocket, shell and sniper fire. Independent media report that pro-Ghaddafi forces are unleashing more than 100 rockets a day on what is Libya’s third largest city, and that this has resulted in scores of casualties which include children and the elderly. Human Rights Watch (HRW) have confirmed the use of Spanish made cluster munitions by pro-Ghaddafi forces in Misurata.

Between 15 and 16 April, HRW experts observed at least three MAT-120 mortars exploding over the city, one in a densely populated area only 300 metres from the main hospital. The use of cluster munitions is banned by over 108 countries as part of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Despite heavy shelling, the UNOCHA reports that humanitarian organizations have been able to deliver aid and evacuate people from the port, to safety.

Meanwhile, the office of Baroness Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is working on a plan to deploy a humanitarian military mission (Eufor Libya) to secure better access to and protection of the civilian populations in line with the mandate of resolution 1973 (2011) .

Politically, the decision as to whether this humanitarian force is deployed will have to come from the UN, specifically the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Thus far, the head of UNOCHA, Valerie Amos has been reluctant to make that decision prior to exhausting all civilian options.

(UNOCHA, The Guardian).

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