October 22, 2017

Niger appeals for aid to help thousands of Libya refugees

The Choucha refugee camp in Niger. Not a happy homecoming for the migrant workers fleeing Libya.

The Niger government has appealed for international help to deal with an estimated 59,000 African refugee’s who have fled Libya since the civil war there began in February.

The International Organization of Migration says many of them arrive with no money or food, and are in poor health after an arduous journey across the desert.

Many sub-Saharan Africans have worked in Libya for years in low-paid jobs that the Libyan’s don’t want to do. Most of them have been employed in the oil, agriculture and construction sectors, and also as domestic servants.

The United Nations estimates at least 335,000 people have fled Libya since the beginning of the conflict, including at least 200,000 foreign nationals.

Countries bordering Libya, especillay Tunisia, Egypt and Niger have been ill equiped to deal with such large numbers who have so little.

Many of the refugee’s are Niger citizens but the government is struggling to cope with the human tide that is showing no sign of abating.

54,000 of the refugee’s have arrived on foot at the northern Niger town of Dirkou. Camps in the area are unable to cope. Unless the United Nations steps in there is the real prospect of disease breaking out.

The IOM has been helping with food and medical assistance for the returning migrants – and with transporting them back to their homes in Niger or elsewhere in West Africa.

Abibatou Wane from IOM says “In Libya they [the refugee’s] were working and sending money and helping their families.”

“Now communities were doubly affected by hosting the returnees and by the drop in income from Libya”.

All around this is a bad situation. It is time for the United Nations to put politics aside and help where help is desperately needed.