An estimated 3,000 migrants are now thought to be seeking refuge at an IOM transit centre as fighting around the Libyan city of Sebha continues.
However, IOM is deeply concerned over their welfare as the transit centre, like the rest of Sebha, is fast running out of food. There is also no running water or electricity.
The migrants, mostly Chadian but also including Somalis, Eritreans, Nigerians, Nigeriens, Egyptians, Jordanians and Pakistanis, began arriving at the IOM centre to seek refuge some weeks ago. But numbers have increased significantly recently.
Chadian consular officials in Sebha told IOM that there was heavy firing through the night on 11/12 September and that security in the town was deteriorating rapidly.
To accommodate the increasing numbers of migrants, IOM has rented a compound adjacent to its transit centre.
“Although the second compound can provide additional space for new arrivals, the scarcity of food and no running water is extremely worrying. With the security situation worsening, the only way to avoid a humanitarian disaster is to get the migrants out as soon as possible,” says IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, Mohammed Abdiker.
With the fighting making an air evacuation impossible, IOM has been working on carrying out a road evacuation as soon as a humanitarian corridor out of Sebha can be established and final logistical issues over fuel and transport are resolved.
Last week, the Organization called on warring parties to respect international humanitarian law and ensure no harm comes to those migrants taking refuge at the IOM centre.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 of 2,000 Sub-Saharan Africans stranded at the northern Niger town of Dirkou after having fled Libya recently are being evacuated by IOM in a convoy south to Agadez.
An IOM transit centre in Dirkou close to the Niger-Libya border with a capacity of 250 people is currently sheltering up to 400 migrants. The remaining migrants are living in the open in and around Dirkou.
The 2,000 migrants, including 1,000 Nigerians as well as Gambians, Senegalese, Togolese, Chadians, Ivorians, Ghanaians, Mauritanians, Burkinabés and Malians have been stranded in Dirkou for several weeks in desperate need of both humanitarian and evacuation assistance.
IOM teams in Dirkou, the Niger Red Crescent and individual volunteers have been providing the migrants with three meals a day, water and basic health checks.
However, they stress the need for greater and more sustained assistance as migrants are forced to wait in the town for not only for available transport but also an escort to Agadez, the main town in northern Niger.
A lack of fuel to operate the IOM-hired trucks travelling to Agadez has been a major problem in recent weeks. Until the fall of the Gaddafi regime, Dirkou’s fuel supply came from nearby Libyan towns and was affordable. For the past few weeks, there has been no fuel available in and around the town. Fuel is now having to be trucked in from Agadez, a minimum journey of three to four days and is at significantly higher cost.
IOM staff in Dirkou say the Sub-Saharan Africans, particularly Nigerians, have reported that they fled Libya now because of the targeting of Africans. Some say they were being accused of being mercenaries.
Nearly 79,000 African migrants have fled to Niger from Libya since the start of the crisis, the vast majority of them Nigerien.