1,200 migrants stranded in southern Libya: IOM

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Around 1,200 migrants, mostly Chadians, are stranded in the besieged southern Libyan town of Sebha, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday.

In a press conference, IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy told reporters that the migrants "are terrified at the idea of being caught in the fighting between forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi and rebel troops."

"Sebha is still in the hands of Kadhafi and is circled by rebels," he explained.

In a statement, the IOM called upon the warring parties to "respect international humanitarian law and ensure no harm comes to the more than 1,200 migrants" who have been stuck in the transit centre since June.

"With no electricity, fuel, and little food and water, the situation for the migrants and those in the town is becoming increasingly difficult," the IOM said.

The IOM chief of mission for Chad, Qasim Sufi, said in the statement that "the migrants are very scared and threatened."

"Yesterday, we received an urgent call from the authorities in Sebha telling us of the large number of people now seeking refuge at the IOM centre and the urgent need to evacuate them," he said.

Chauzy added it was not possible to evacuate the migrants by air, some of whom are also from Niger and Nigeria, and the organisation would need some security guarantees before beginning road evacuations.

Sebha, a Kadhafi stronghold, has an airport which was used by the IOM last July to evacuate 1,400 Chadian migrants, including women and children, who had fled fighting in Tripoli, Misrata and Benghazi, the IOM said.

It added that a that a "high-level delegation" from the organisation would soon depart for Tripoli and Benghazi to address the issue.

© 2011 AFP

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