Migrants resting nearby a destroyed detention center in Tripoli, Libya | Photo: EPA/STR
Migrants resting nearby a destroyed detention center in Tripoli, Libya | Photo: EPA/STR

In a joint statement, seven UN agencies on Wednesday launched an appeal to support the population in Libya, where the conflict and COVID-19 are a threat and the situation for migrants and refugees is especially alarming.

Ongoing conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic are a significant threat to life in Libya, where the health and security of an entire population are at risk, a statement signed by 7 UN agencies warned. 

The signatories of the statement were U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, U.N. Population Fund Executive Director Natalia Kanem, World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, and International Organization for Migration Director-General António Vitorino. 

The agencies noted that almost 400,000 Libyans had been displaced since the beginning of the conflict 9 years ago and almost half of this number in the past year, since an attack began on the capital. The organizations noted that the situation is particularly alarming for many migrants and refugees. 

Catastrophic situation in Libya 

The statement noted that despite repeated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, including by the UN Secretary General, the hostilities continue unabated, hindering access and the delivery of essential humanitarian supplies. 

The agencies said the situation for many migrants and refugees "is especially alarming," with more than 3,200 people intercepted at sea since January having been returned to Libya, many of whom ending up in one of the eleven unofficial detention centers to which humanitarian workers do not have access. 

The UN has repeatedly said the country is not safe and they should not be returned to detention and women and children continue to suffer from the armed conflict. 

The agencies said the UN has verified 113 cases of "grave violations" in Libya over the past year, including the killing and mutilation of children. Since January, they said, "at least 15 attacks have damaged health facilities and ambulances, and injured healthcare workers". 

As a result of the coronavirus spreading, most cities in Libya "are facing shortages of basic food items coupled with an increase in prices", the agencies said. 

Call for ceasefire 

The UN agencies called for a ceasefire in Libya to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. They said the international community "must not turn a blind eye to the conflict" in Libya, where 64 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed. 

The leaders backed the call by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire to tackle the pandemic. The agencies asked donors to "continue to show their generosity and stand by the people of Libya in their quest for peace and in this moment of great need."

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