After rescue workers were forced to turn desperate refugees away from ships in rebel-held Misrata, the British government has stepped in to fund the evacuation of another 5,000 people from the besieged Libyan city, The Independent reports today.
The International Organisation of Migration, which has been organising the evacuation ships, took another 1,000 foreign workers and wounded Libyans out of Misrata yesterday. But, amid reports that EU military forces were ready to be deployed to secure aid supplies into the country, the IOM estimates that thousands more are still stuck in the port area, among them women and children, many living in the open without access to food, water or medicine.
“We wanted to be able to take more people but it was not possible,” said Jeremy Haslam, who led the IOM mission, which has been going on for days but is still far from clearing the city of civilians. “Although the exchange of fire subsided while we were boarding … we had a very limited time to get the migrants and Libyans on board the ship and leave.”
Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, said yesterday that the UK would play a leading role in getting those left behind out of Misrata, which has become the scene of the most relentless Gaddafi assault in the country. Pro-Gaddafi forces have made serious incursions into the city in recent days, although the rebels were reported to have regained a small chunk of the centre yesterday.
“[The refugees] find themselves at terrible risk from incoming fire, with no way to get out,” Mr Mitchell said on a visit to New York to discuss the aid mission at the United Nations. “These evacuations will take them to safety and help reduce the demand in Misrata for the very limited supplies of food, water and medical supplies available.”
Migrant workers are reported to be converging on Misrata from nearby cities in the hope of escaping from the relentless bombardment. But in Benghazi yesterday Baroness Amos, the British head of the UN’s humanitarian operation, admitted that, while Muammar Gaddafi’s government had promised access for an aid mission during earlier talks in Tripoli, there had been no guarantee that attacks would cease in order to allow the delivery of supplies. Source: The Independent.
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