Thursday, 3 March 2011

The situation in Libya has serious ramifications for the country's borders

The rapidly evolving situation in Libya will have a number of important regional and international ramifications for the country's borders and the flow of people who have left, or are trying to leave, its territory.

More than 75,000 people have now entered Tunisia from Libya; mostly Egyptian migrant workers. On March 2nd, The Independent reported that up to 20,000 Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Chinese and Iranian workers have attempted to leave Libya (which is estimated to host 1.5 million migrants from other states including Pakistan, Sudan, the Philippines and Nepal). The crossing system collapsed yesterday when, according to Robert Fisk, thousands of mostly Arab men "fought with local Tunisians who . . . attacked them with stakes and iron bars”. The bottleneck was caused by a lack of transport to the migrants' home countries, and thousands remain stranded on the Libyan side, without access to food, water and sanitation.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that "an additional 70,000 people, mostly Egyptians, have crossed into Egypt from Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration." Five to seven thousand are stranded in the border area between Libya and Egypt at Saloum. The Egyptian authorities will not permit those without valid documentation to enter Egypt, and many are without basic provisions.

UN OCHA reported that thousands are stranded at Benghazi port and that the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is preparing for the arrival of around 2,000 nationals of varied nationalities who have managed to cross the southern Libyan border in the Gatrone region.

Sources: The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, UN OCHA, The Daily Telegraph

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

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