Humanitarian Ship Ferries Stranded, Wounded Migrants Out of Misrata

An Italian vessel bound for Europe carries people who have fled Libya. A ship carrying 800 migrants was able to leave the Libyan city of Misrata despite encountering heavy shelling and shooting from forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. Photo by: P.Behan / UNHCR

A ship chartered by the International Organization for Migration and funded by the United Kingdom was able to evacuate on May 4 about 800 migrants, 50 of them wounded, out of the besieged Libyan city of Misrata despite encountering heavy shelling and shooting from forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

The Guardian reports that the ship, Red Star 1, had to wait for four days before docking, as loyalist troops planted sea mines and rained missiles on the harbor. IOM staff members on the ship said they had to wait three hours after docking for people to come, giving them only an hour to try and accommodate as many people as possible, according to an IOM press release. 

U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said in a statement: “We are extremely concerned that ongoing fighting in Misrata risks preventing other humanitarian ships from docking. The Qadhafi regime continues to shell the port area, and the security situation is made worse by mines they have laid in the water. I strongly condemn the fact that humanitarian vessels are being prevented from carrying out their duties. We demand unfettered humanitarian access so that this urgent work can be continued.”

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who will ask the court’s judges to issue arrest warrants for three people whom he said committed crimes against humanity in Libya, noted that the humanitarian situation in the North African country, particularly in the city of Misrata, is getting worse.

“There are also reports of forces blocking humanitarian supplies. Some sources have also reported the use of civilians as human shields and the torture of prisoners of war or civilians in the context of the armed conflict,” Moreno-Ocampo said, according to the U.N. News Center.

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    Louie-An Pilapil

    Louie-An is a former senior development analyst at Devex Manila. She has held consulting and editorial positions at the Asian Development Bank in Manila and a business-to-business media company in Hong Kong and mainland China.