UN official says 750,000 people flee Libya due to conflict

Over 750,000 people have fled Libya since conflict started, and another 150,000 are internally displaced in the country, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya Panos Moumtzis said here on Tuesday.

The UN humanitarian coordinator arrived in Geneva on Monday, after traveling to Libya and holding discussions with both sides of the conflict, demanding the authorities to give green light to humanitarian access.

"Our feeling is that the longer the crisis continues the more grave the situation is in the country," Moumtzis said, expressing his concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya.

Discussion concerning the resumption of UN humanitarian presence in Tripoli was carried out between the UN coordinator and the Libyan government.

UN withdrew its international staff from the Libyan Capital after its office was attacked by angry mobs early this month.

"The discussion we had is very positive, very constructive," Moumtzis said, adding that he expected the re-stationing process to be started in the coming days.

According to Moumtzis, the Libyan government has given assurances of safety, and offered apology for the ransacking.

Elsewhere, the city of Misrata is still the focus of international humanitarian efforts. So far, the UN agencies have managed eight rotations of deliveries of humanitarian assistance to the city and at the same time evacuated a number of both third country nationals and injured people by sea.

Another priority, Moumtzis said, should be the western mountain regions, where the ongoing conflict is endangering lives by thousands, but somehow went underreported.

In contrast to the most of the European Nations which are reluctant to open up their borders for refugees going towards the European continent, and the NATO forces which have allegedly neglected the distress signals of refugee boats struggling at sea, refugees from Libya are well-accepted in Tunisia.

Of the almost 50,000 refugees who have recently fled from the western mountain regions of Libya, around 48,000 are currently accommodated by Tunisian host families, in spite of their stretched capacities.

The UN humanitarian coordinator applauded the Tunisians for their "tremendous generosity" towards the refugees.

[Source: Xinhua, Geneva, 17May11]

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