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Asian, African Libya evacuees face plane shortage : UNHCR

The UN refugee agency warned on Tuesday that there was a critical shortage of long haul flights to evacuate foreign migrants who have fled Libya to their home countries in Asia and Africa.

“There is a critical shortage at present of long haul flights to Bangladesh, other Asian countries and sub Saharan Africa,” said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UHCR)

“With an estimated 40 to 50 flights needed to repatriate all the migrants, further support will be needed to ensure that everyone is transported home,” he told journalists.

Aid agencies have been chartering flights with cash from donors, some of which have offered long haul flights.

The number of people who have fled the violence in Libya since last month has passed 215,000 according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), but the large majority have been evacuated or left the border areas.

About 5,000 people, including 3,500 Bangladeshis, are waiting to be evacuated from the Egyptian border, an area which has seen 98,188 people — more than two thirds of them Egyptians — flee the unrest in Libya.

The Bangladeshis were reportedly becoming “increasingly agitated” after being stuck there for 10 days, the UNHCR said.

“At the Tunisian border with Libya the number of arrivals has dropped considerably compared to a week ago, with 2,485 people arriving yesterday,” Edwards noted.

The UNHCR said the drop in the flow coincided with intensified fighting in western Libya, which may have reduced the ability to move through the region, although aid agencies were unable to pinpoint an exact reason.