Global church bodies seek support for Libya refugees

By staff writers
6 Apr 2011

The World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches and the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe have expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in Libya.

In a joint statement the three inter-church bodies expressed appreciation for the various governments and aid agencies providing assistance to people fleeing the conflict in Libya, but added that the response needs to be broadened “to provide aid and protection to refugees, migrant workers and other people at risk, and to enhance efforts to find peaceful and just solutions to the crisis in Libya.”

They said the specific needs to be addressed immediately involve protection and assistance for those who cannot return to their homes, and keeping borders open so people can flee from conflict areas.

The comments come as doubts grow over the scope, remit and effectiveness of Western intervention in what has effectively become a civil war in Libya.

The full text of the statement reads as follows:

"The humanitarian situation in Libya and on its borders remains a serious concern. As attacks and armed conflicts continue in Libya, untold numbers of people are at risk. Increasing numbers of people flee to neighbouring countries in the Mediterranean, including Turkey, Malta and Italy. It is also a matter of concern that refugees, particularly from Somalia and Eritrea, who sought safety in Libya or were there in transit, are also now seeking safe haven.

"A word of appreciation is due to various governments and agencies for assistance they extend to the large numbers of foreign migrant workers who have fled from Libya to Egypt and Tunisia, and for the concerted efforts to repatriate them to their countries of origin.

"The World Council of Churches, together with the Conference of European Churches and the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe, stands in solidarity with North African and European churches and congregations that have opened their doors to people displaced by the crisis.

"A wide circle of the international community is demonstrating concern for the crisis and its outcome. We call on them to broaden their response by willingly sharing the responsibility to provide aid and protection to refugees, migrant workers and other people at risk, and to enhance efforts to find peaceful and just solutions to the crisis in Libya.

"It is our considered opinion that the following specific needs to be addressed with immediate effect:

"Offering protection and assistance for the thousands of people who cannot return to their homes and countries;

"Keeping open the borders of Libya’s neighbours in North Africa and Europe for migrants and people fleeing from conflict areas;

"Increasing international support to UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross and national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to assist persons in need of safety, shelter and food;

"For member states of the European Union to respond positively to the initiative of the European Commissioner for Migration and Security, to resettle refugees and displaced persons from the region and to relocate asylum applicants from Malta, Italy and Greece to other EU member states; and

"For the governments involved in the crisis to work through the United Nations to promote a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Libya, to work for post-conflict solutions that serve the legitimate interests of all the people of Libya and to avoid further loss of life in the meantime."

[Ekk/3]

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