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Missionary Cleric in Libya Appeals for Evacuation of Refugees amid Humanitarian Crisis

Fr. Mussie Zerai, founder of the Habeshia humanitarian agency based in Libya.

A Missionary Cleric ministering in Libya has appealed to the international community to help facilitate “urgent” evacuation of refugees from the North African country amid a humanitarian crisis.

“There is an urgent need to evacuate and empty all the centres and camps on Libyan territory, finding another country that can temporarily host the refugees with a feasible resettlement plan for all those in need of international protection,” Fr. Mussie Zerai who is the founder of the  Habeshia humanitarian agency has been quoted as saying Friday, August 28.

He added, “Our appeal to the European Union (EU) and the international community is to take action to launch a serious resettlement program, implementing the commitments already made previously when the EU pledged to receive 50 thousand refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa with the resettlement program.”

“Meeting the commitments made would save thousands of lives from death at sea or in the desert and in Libyan camps,” Fr. Zerai who is a native of Eritrea says.

Libya’s humanitarian crisis is worsening, compounded by the halt of oil operations, blockade of ports, and the spread of COVID-19, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said August 20.

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The North African nation is also dealing with those fleeing other African countries attempting to reach Europe from its shores by boat amid COVID-19 challenges.

Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers continue to attempt to cross the Mediterranean, risking their lives.

In the August 28 message, Fr. Zerai also expressed concerns about the humanitarian crisis in the North African country saying, “The situation in Libya is no longer tolerable; many refugees try to escape from these camps: they are often killed, if taken alive they suffer unspeakable violence.” 

He described the situation as “untenable” and highlighted the cry for help from refugees “trapped in detention centres, often transformed into real camps in the various Libyan localities such as Kums, Zawiya, Tripoli, Zelatien, Misurata, Sebha, Kuffra.”

The Eritrean Cleric went on to highlight “desperation of these refugees: people from Sub-Saharan Africa, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Somalis, victims of abuse, abuse by the managers of the facilities where they are held deprived of their personal freedom, often reduced to hunger, blackmail and violence.”

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He described the health conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya as “very precarious” and that access to medical care “hangs only on the sporadic visits by NGOs of doctors who do not always have automatic access.”

“Every time there is a change of guard, the new owners of the centre dictate their laws and demands and violence,” Fr. Zerai said, lamenting that “often the managers of the detention centres are in close collaboration with the smugglers who mediate with the real human traffickers, who negotiate the price for the sale of the group of refugees detained in the centres.”

He indicated that “the people involved in this negotiation have no say on their sale to groups often of real criminals, who do not hesitate to torture them in order to obtain exorbitant amounts as payment.”