Aid agencies seek sea and land access to Misrata

3rd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The international migration agency appealed to all sides in the Libyan crisis Tuesday to allow a ship to evacuate about 1,000 stranded migrants as well as mounting casualties from the besieged port of Misrata.

"We are appealing to all parties in the conflict to allow the Red Star to dock to rescue about 1,000 stranded migrants," said International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokesman Jumbe Omari Jumbe.

"Today it is particularly important because there are many injured civilians, some of them in intensive care, and we have reports that two have died while waiting," he told journalists.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that several hundred patients needed evacuation for urgent medical treatment, while the international Red Cross said it would try to reach Misrata by land.

Omari Jumbe said the appeal was directed at NATO and the Libyan authorities in particular. NATO had denied the portmaster in Misrata permission so far reportedly because of uncertainty over anti-ship mines, he added.

The alliance said Monday after a clearance operation that its forces were scouring the sea nearby for a loose anti-ship mine drifting off Libya after it was dropped by Moamer Kadhafi forces near Misrata's harbour last week.

Meanwhile, Kadhafi loyalist forces launched a new armoured incursion into the southwest of the city on Monday.

The OCHA said Misrata was short of doctors, nurses and medical supplies to deal with a backlog of up to 800 patients.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was still trying to regain access to Misrata after missions some 10 days ago found medical, water and power shortages.

"What we will attempt to do also is go overland to Misrata hopefully later this week," said ICRC spokesman Steven Anderson.

Meanwhile, an exodus from Libya's Western Mountains region has resumed, according to the UN refugee agency, with 8,000 people, mainly ethnic Berber women and children, fleeing to southern Tunisia over the weekend.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also reported that more people were fleeing Libya by sea to Italy.

"Some 3,200 people have arrived on Lampedusa over the past five days, most of them originating from sub-Saharan Africa," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

That raised the total number of arrivals in Italy to 8,100 since March 26, on top of 1,132 who reached Malta, he added.

© 2011 AFP

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