IOM evacuates another 1,000 people from Misrata

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Close to 1,000 people stranded in besieged Misrata were evacuated Monday but at least 4,000 more are awaiting rescue in the Libyan city, the International Organization for Migration said.

The group of 971 who were rescued by a chartered boat include 650 Ghanaians, as well as 100 Libyans, among them a child who was shot in the face, the inter-governmental agency said.

The boat was expected to arrive later Monday in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, and migrants who are deemed physically able to travel will be taken in the coming days by road to the border with Egypt.

The IOM warned however that thousands more are awaiting rescue and that the situation on the ground is getting increasingly difficult for further evacuation missions.

"We have a very, very small window to get everyone out. We do not have the luxury of having days, but hours," said Pasquale Lupoli, IOM's regional representative for the Middle East.

"Instead of carrying out several further missions that will go into next week, what we now need is to have a ship that can accommodate at least 4,000 people and do one last mission that can take everyone out at the same time immediately," she added.

Spokeswoman Jemini Pandya noted that those stranded in Misrata are extremely weak and dehydrated after living nearly two months in the open and with little food and no access to clean water.

Pointing to the first mission which rescued about 1,200 people, Pandya noted that "some migrants would not have survived another day" had they not been rescued then.

"We urgently need donors and governments to put such a ship and funds at our disposal to carry out a mission on this scale. Every hour counts and the migrants still in Misrata cannot survive much longer like this," said Lupoli.

© 2011 AFP

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