UN refugee agency rejects ‘starving migrants’ claim

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said he finds the accusations offensive. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 November 2019

UN refugee agency rejects ‘starving migrants’ claim

  • The Guardian daily earlier said it had seen a document circulated among UN staff saying that UNHCR would “phase out” food catering in a Tripoli center
  • The Guardian said it had spoken to an aid worker who said “they’re just trying to starve them to motivate them to leave”

ATHENS: The UN refugee agency said Thursday it was encouraging migrants to leave a severely overcrowded Tripoli center, but rejected as “offensive” a British daily report alleging it was “starving” asylum-seekers to force them out.
“I find that accusation offensive,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told reporters in Athens.
“I don’t know where you read that report. Us, starving refugees and migrants in Libya? When my colleagues, day in, day out, risk their lives to access people that are often detained by criminal gangs?” he said.
The Guardian daily earlier Thursday said it had seen a document circulated among UN staff saying that UNHCR would “phase out” food catering in a Tripoli center under its supervision from 31 December.
The Guardian said it had spoken to an aid worker who said “they’re just trying to starve them to motivate them to leave” and that hundreds “have apparently been without food for weeks.”
Late Thursday, the UN agency confirmed that catering at the so-called Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) would be gradually halted as of the end of the year.
It explained that it was instead boosting its assistance in urban areas in Libya, which is a major transit route for migrants, because the situation at the center had become “unsustainable.”
The center, which was opened a year ago as a transit center for vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers who were destined to be transferred out of Libya, had become “severely overcrowded” since July when hundreds of people arrived from a bombed-out detention center, it said.
Some 400 more had come from another detention center, and another 200 from urban areas, meaning that the center with a capacity to host 600 people was now hosting nearly double that number.
UNHCR said the overcrowding was hampering its “ability to evacuate the most acutely vulnerable refugees, for whom solutions outside of Libya have been found, out of detention centers and to safety.”
UNHCR’s chief of mission for Libya, Jean-Paul Cavalieri, stressed in the statement that the agency welcomed that asylum-seekers and refugees had been released from detention by Libyan authorities, and said it would expand its program supporting them “in urban areas so that they can get the help they need.”
According to UNHCR, some 40,000 refugees and asylum-seekers already live in urban areas in Libya, which has been mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
“We hope that the GDF will be able to return to its original function as a transit facility for the most acutely vulnerable refugees, so we are able to evacuate them to safety,” Cavalieri said.
He acknowledged though that the facility had basically become an “open center” for urban migrants and asylum-seekers, and said that the agency would continue to provide medical assistance and sanitation services there “for the foreseeable future, based on available resources.”
But UNHCR said it would “phase out food catering at the GDF in the New Year,” but would inform people who entered the center “informally” about the urban assistance package.
“Those with a valid claim for international protection are being offered the urban assistance package to help them move out, including emergency cash for an initial two months, relief items, access to primary health care and medical referrals,” it said.
The agency said 40 people had already agreed to this option, which did not rule out their eligibility to be evacuated or resettled outside of Libya.


Bomb kills two policemen in Afghan capital

Updated 16 January 2021

Bomb kills two policemen in Afghan capital

  • Two policemen were killed and one wounded
  • The two warring sides are currently in the Qatari capital Doha discussing the agenda items of the talks

KABUL: A roadside bomb targeting a police vehicle in the Afghan capital killed two policemen Saturday, officials said, as violence continues unabated in Afghanistan despite peace talks between the Taliban and government.
The vehicle carrying the policemen was struck by the bomb in the center of the capital on the road to the prestigious Kabul University, police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said.
Two policemen were killed and one wounded, Faramarz said.
Violence has surged across the country in recent months, especially in Kabul which is also rocked by a new trend of targeted killings that has sown fear in the city.
The bloodshed comes even as the Taliban and government negotiators engage in peace talks to end the nearly two decade war in the country.
The two warring sides are currently in the Qatari capital Doha discussing the agenda items of the talks.