UNHCR tents at a refugee camp in Libya | Photo: Picture-alliance/Photoshot
UNHCR tents at a refugee camp in Libya | Photo: Picture-alliance/Photoshot

Due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, UN refugee agency UNHCR has closed two of its facilities in the Libyan capital Tripoli until Tuesday, March 24. Hotlines for asylum seekers and refugees are still available, says UNHCR.

In a statement from Tuesday, March 17, the UN refugee agency announced it would "temporarily halt" its activities at two of its facilities in Libya. The centers in question are located in the Sarraj and Gurji districts of the Libyan capital Tripoli.

"In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR is temporarily halting activities in its Registration Centre in Sarraj area and its Community Day Centre in Gurji area from 18th of March to 24th of March 2020," the agency said on Twitter.

The statement comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the world, putting migrants, refugees and other vulnerable groups at particular risk.

UNHCR said the temporary closures would "protect the health of people of concern to UNHCR as well as that of its staff and partners." The measures were also "in line with guidance provided by Libyan Authorities," the statement read.

''We had to take preventative precautions to ensure the safety of refugees, staff and partners staff. Any outbreak of COVID in Libya would be very damaging," Caroline Gluck, spokesperson for UNHCR in Libya, told InfoMigrants. "The  conflict has already impacted on the country’s healthcare and medical services, which had limited financial resources and shortages of equipment and medicines."

How to contact UNHCR Libya

  • UNHCR hotlines are available Sunday through Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm
  • if you're a asylum seeker or a refugee, you can call: +218 91 989 7937
  • for all questions related to "community-based protection" in Tripoli, call +218 91 712 7644; in Benghazi, call +218 91 000 7218
  • for questions concerning rescue at sea, call: +218 91 699 8581
  • if you have questions related to detention, you must call: +218 91 989 7936
  • you can also reach UNHCR by email (lbytrprt@unhcr.org or lbytr@unhcr.org)
  • Libyan national center for disease control is available at +218 92 688 8999 / +218 92 455 5554 / +218 92 188 8999
  • follow UNHCR Libya on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the situation

UNHCR also stressed that all of its services are free of charge. In case you received a suspicious or fraudulent offer, you can write directly to the UNHCR inspector general via email at inspector@unhcr.org or file a complaint here.

Suspension of search and rescue operations

According to the United Nations, the number of displaced people in Libya has reached over 350,000 people, and an estimated 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

On Friday, the organization Mediterranea Saving Humans announced the suspension of its search and rescue (SAR) operations at sea due to the coronavirus emergency.

Last weekend, Libya's coast guard picked up more than 400 migrants and returned them to Libya. That's according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which called the action "unacceptable."

 

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