UNHCR says allowed to part resume activities in Libya

25th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

The UN refugee agency said Friday that it has been allowed to resume part of its work in Libya after after talks with Libyan authorities over Tripoli's decision to expel the agency.

However Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said more talks were pending over the agency's future in the country, and that the development did not suggest that the issue has been resolved.

He also said the agency has asked Tripoli to substantiate claims made earlier that one of its representative had offered refugee status in exchange for sex.

"UNHCR has had constructive discussions this week at the senior level with the government of Libya about the future of our operations in that country," said Edwards.

"Following from these discussions, our activities for the existing caseload will resume," he added.

"Discussions with the Libyan authorities on future operation arrangements of UNHCR in Libya are expected to start quite soon."

Asked if Tripoli has revoked its expulsion order, Edwards said: "Whether this means this thing is over, no it doesn't."

"The question on whether the expulsion order has been revoked probably ought to go to Libyan authorities themselves. We certainly haven't received that kind of information," he added.

The North African state is a hub for refugees from sub-Saharan Africa as well as the Middle East seeking to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The UNHCR registers refugees and asylum seekers in Libya.

On Thursday, Tripoli justified its closure order earlier this month in a statement that included claims that the UNHCR's representative had offered refugee status in exchange for sex.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that it had received several complaints of "abuse" carried out by the representative, who was not named, "contrary to the humanitarian activity of the organisation."

Edwards said the UNHCR "does take very seriously any accusations against any UNHCR staff member from whatever source."

"We have asked the Libyan government to substantiate these particular claims, if and when we receive these claims, we will be in a position to investigate through our normal procedures."

Libya has also underlined that it was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention on refugees and therefore did not recognise the agency's office in Tripoli.

© 2010 AFP

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