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The humanitarian situation in Libya: “difficult but not hopeless”

(BRUSSELS2) + 20 million euros. The European Commission has decided to increase its humanitarian aid to Libya. This brings the total of European aid to 125 million euros (of which more than half - 70 million - is provided by the Community budget) confirmed Kristalina Georgieva to a few journalists (including 'B2') on the sidelines of the council. Foreign Affairs on Monday. It is very concerned about the situation in the areas controlled by Gaddafi, in particular regarding access for humanitarian workers. " We have to find a solution, a political solution, have a negotiation on the issues of humanitarian access” she pleads. “The presence of humanitarian workers is not just assistance, it is a symbol for the parties in conflict that can be negotiated."

Problem in the Berber mountains, and in the Libyan desert. improvement in Misrata

The situation is " particularly critical in the Berber mountains of Nafusa, the towns of Yafran and Al Qalaa under siege and urgent needs for medical supplies and food are reported according to a summary report of the humanitarian situation on the spot. A few NGOs manage to get through. Corn " assistance by international organizations remains rare, erratic and uncoordinated. "" We are also conducting negotiations to open a humanitarian access corridor to Nafusa explains the curator. Corn " it does not need to be secured by the military, this is the preferred option currently. »

Another concern for humanitarian leaders — a situation little covered in the media - that of the fate of the Chadian populations stranded in Koufra, Sabbah and other towns in the desert.

On the other hand, in Misrata, the unblocking of the port makes it possible to gradually improve humanitarian supplies. An International Organization for Migration boat left Benghazi on May 20, carrying 150 tons of food, a field hospital and various NGO teams; it evacuated 600 people. Another ICRC ship left the city held by the Libyan opposition on May 22 and will remain in port for 10 days to serve as a base for operations in Misrata.

EUFOR: not necessary, not desirable

Despite everything, the commissioner does not think that the intervention of Eufor Libya is necessary " Not at the moment underlines the commissioner. The use of military means for humanitarian support is only conceivable " only if there is no other way.. she explains. " However, currently, if access is difficult it is not impossible ". The commissioner is, on this point, on the same line as OCHA, whose point of view she shares. It's a (Pandora's) box. If you start opening it, you don't know when you'll close it. This sets a precedent that will be applicable not only to this crisis, but to others. It will be claimed by other people who will not have the same good intentions as the European Union. (…) Several Member States share this point of view, of caution. she explained.

850.000 people fled Libya, 2/3 of them Libyans

In total, according to the latest figures from OCHA (dated May 23), nearly 850.000 people have fled Libya, including approximately 332.000 Libyans (*) and 275.000 third country nationals. But this situation is very fluid. There are also movements in the other direction. “ We are seeing some feedback. People who had fled to Egypt are returning to Benghazi. etc.…” explains the commissioner.

Queue from Bangali to the Ras Jedir camp in Tunisia, March 2011 (credit: ICRC)

Civil protection mechanism still active

11 European Union countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, France, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Malta, Sweden, United Kingdom) have offered air capacity to help repatriate foreigners who fled Libya. 157 flights had been organized allowing the return to their country of nearly 32.000 people, according to European sources. The civil protection mechanism, activated for operation “Pegasus”, to evacuate European citizens, remains in operation. And 8 Member States benefited from European co-financing in these transport operations to the tune of 10,5 million euros. Let us point out that while some thefts are civilian, others were organized with military means...

But that is not enough ! However, the situation in the camps, particularly in Tunisia, remains tense. “ Security concerns remain in transit camps. And the Tunisian authorities call on the international community to accelerate the evacuation of migrants from these camps » explains the latest situation report. And a certain number of people remain stuck in Tunisia, mainly people who fear returning to their country or are really “refugees”: 30% Somali, 22% Sudanese, 16% Eritrean and 5% Iraqi.

Neighboring countries bear the maximum burden of refugees, Europe the minimum

In total (*), Tunisia has welcomed since the start of the events more than 425.000 displaced people (including only 46.000 nationals), Egypt almost 300.000 (including 96.000 nationals), Niger 67.000 (mainly nationals), Chad 25.000 (idem), Algeria 19.000 (including 1.000 nationals)… Italy and Malta only 12.000!

(*) Update of the figures, slight confusion on the figure of the Libyans. And details of the nationals received by each State.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).