Libya fighting hits migrants hard: IOM
Rescuers take care of a baby as a group of more than 1,370 people of immigrants disembark from the Italian military ship - AFP/Alfonso Di Vincenzo

GENEVA: Migrants have been hit hard by the spiraling conflict in Libya which could lead to more of them taking to unseaworthy boats to try to reach Italy, the International Organization for Migration (IMO) warned Friday.

“IOM is concerned that the number of migrants trying to reach Italy from Libya by sea could increase in the coming weeks, as more people decide to opt for the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to escape ongoing fighting in the Libyan capital,” the IOM said in a statement.

Migrants either working in Libya or using the country as a jumping off point as they seek to reach Europe illegally are particularly vulnerable to the country’s raging instability.

“Displaced migrants trapped in Tripoli have been particularly hard hit,” the IOM said.

A week ago, 10 Sudanese were killed when a stray missile hit a house in a besieged district of Tripoli, where an estimated 15,000 Sudanese live.

IOM staffs have also identified some 2,000 Pakistanis who have found refuge in a school in central Tripoli.

“The place is overcrowded and everyone is anxious to be repatriated. But in the meantime, they urgently need food and medical care,” said Othman Belbeisi, head of the IOM’s Libya operations.

The situation of migrants in detention centers is also deteriorating, the IOM said.

Libya has 18 such centers for illegal migrants, holding a total of between 4,000 and 6,000 people.

The centers are running out of gas, water and food, and some have released inmates as they can no longer afford to provide adequate food and sanitation, the IOM said.

The organization also said it was working with the Ethiopian embassy in neighboring Egypt to obtain travel documents for a number of Ethiopian women who had been detained, and would help them get home.

It said it had also received requests from Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to help their citizens leave Libya.

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