Concern mounts for refugees and asylum seekers in Libya

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These Eritreans and Somalis in Benghazi told UNHCR about their concerns. Many wished to go to Europe. © UNHCR/L.Dobbs

As violence escalates in Libya, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has expressed its deep concern about the safety of refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.

Libya has been embroiled in factional fighting since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in an armed uprising three years ago.

Fighting by armed factions has intensified in recent weeks in the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi where UNHCR has registered thousands of people.

Ariane Rummery is the UN refugee agency's spokesperson in Geneva.

“We have almost 37,000 people registered with UNHCR in Tripoli and Benghazi and many of them are living in areas which are heavily damaged by the fighting and they unable to move to safe areas because of the ongoing clashes. In Tripoli alone, more than 150 people of Eritrean and Somali and other countries have phoned our protection hotline seeking help with medicines or a safer place to stay. Among this group we are particularly concerned about unaccompanied minors as well." (28")

UNHCR says it continues to work with non-governmental organizations on the ground to deliver assistance and advocate on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers in Libya.

But, it adds, the situation is rapidly deteriorating and many people see leaving Libya as the only option.

The UN refugee agency warns that amidst the growing lawlessness, the smugglers thrive and thousands of desperate people are taking the dangerous sea journey to Europe

Derrick Mbatha, United Nations.

Duration: 1’48″

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