Up to 7,000 Asian and African citizens are stranded at Egypt's border with Libya as migrant workers flee turmoil in Muammar Gaddafi's strife-torn republic.
According to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 50,000 migrants have crossed since 26 January, the vast majority of them Egyptian.
Between 5,000 and 7,000 Asian and African migrants are still encamped at the border, a significant increase from the 2,800 migrants stranded there on 25 January. Most are adult males, with Bangladeshis now comprising the largest number, and some lack travel documentation.
Limited shelter is available at the border but essential items and services are scarce, according to sources. IOM is among those distributing blankets, food and water and has set up an office to register third country nationals and provide onward repatriation.
“The situation is becoming critical, especially in light of uncertain developments in Libya” says Pasquale Lupoli, IOM Regional Representative for the Middle East “We continue to work in close cooperation with the Egyptian authorities and other humanitarian actors to ensure that migrants receive assistance and that return to origin countries can take place with limited delays.”
IOM has launched an appeal to raise US$11m to support evacuation and repatriation efforts and provide humanitarian assistance to an initial 10,000 migrants. Official requests may soon total over 50,000 people, the organisation claims.
While accurate statistics are not available, Libya is estimated to host over one million migrants. The past week has seen the evacuation of workers from as far afield as Moldova, Montenegro, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Vietnam.
IOM’s team at Libya's Tunisian border is also preparing assistance to third country nationals including Egyptian migrants, complementing the Egyptian government's own efforts.