LIBYA: IOM helps hundreds evacuate Tripoli
The International Organization for Migration has begun spiriting foreign evacuees out of the Libyan capital.
The aid group chartered a boat Thursday, which later headed for the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to the east.
The boat, which had been anchored off the Tripoli coast since Tuesday night, was finally able to dock late Thursday morning after security conditions at the port improved.
The migrants had been brought to the port area from various parts of the city with the help of embassies and other parties, IOM officials said in a statement Thursday.
The group of about 200 foreigners being evacuated Thursday included Egyptians, Filipinos, Canadians, Algerians, Moroccans and an Italian, the statement said.
The boat also carried IOM medical staff.
Upon arrival in Benghazi, the evacuees were to be taken to a transit center where accommodations have been arranged, the statement said. They would then be transported by IOM to the Egyptian border at Salloum and returned to their home countries.
"It has not been easy to do this operation. We never expected it to be. Nevertheless, there is a huge sense of relief that all our efforts are in the end helping these migrants," said Pasquale Lupoli, IOM regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. "However, IOM reiterates its call to all parties to allow migrants safe passage to the port. This issue remains a major challenge in any further evacuations of migrants from Tripoli."
Fear of fighting, looting, sniper fire and checkpoints have prevented would-be evacuees from leaving their homes to reach the port area, the IOM said.
A second IOM-chartered boat capable of transporting many more evacuees is due to arrive over the weekend, the statement said.
Several thousand people have registered with the IOM for evacuation assistance.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Photo: Foreigners register before boarding an International Organization for Migration boat in war-torn Tripoli for evacuation to the rebel center of Benghazi in the east on Thursday. Credit: Charles Onions/AFP/Getty Images.