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Romania helps UNHCR evacuate first refugees previously stranded in Libya

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Govt. Romania
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Date de publication

Timisoara, 20 April 2011 - A group of 29 Eritrean refugees from the Shousha camp in Tunisia has arrived at the Emergency Transit Center (ETC) in Timisoara in Western Romania this morning. The UN Refugee Agency, along with the Government of Romania and the International Organisation for Migration have coordinated their evacuation to Romania where they will be hosted at the ETC for a period of maximum six months until their onward resettlement to their future home countries.

This is the first group of refugees who have fled the Libyan crisis earlier this year to be resettled through the Romanian ETC. They have previously been exposed to serious human rights abuses mounting to torture in detention in Libya, after having fled their native Eritrea where they had rejected military service.

In mid-February 2011, the revolts shaking parts of the Arab world erupted in Libya and African nationals have repeatedly been targeted randomly by Libyans and physically abused or even killed. Citizens of African countries living in Libya, including recognized refugees, are particularly under threat due to popular anger over Muammar Gaddafi's reported use of sub-Saharan mercenaries to quash popular protests.

As a result, a considerable number of African refugees were displaced for a second time in their life. They fled Libya and were temporarily transferred to Shousha transit camp in Tunisia where they are completely reliant on relief assistance. The tented camp was established by UNHCR in coordination with local authorities and other humanitarian agencies to accommodate up to 20,000 people. The camp is located in a semi-arid area with desert climate where the environment is barely able to sustain the local population. The weather is extremely hot in summer and the camp is often exposed to heavy sand storms. The living conditions in the camp are harsh and not conducive to a dignified life.

As of 18 April, more than 550,000 migrants have fled the violence in Libya since February, arriving in surrounding countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Niger. Tunisia alone has received nearly half of them and has shown impressively generous assistance with the local population opening their houses to hundreds of displaced families.

Since November 2008 and with the support from UNHCR, the Romanian Emergency Transit Center has temporarily hosted a total of 638 refugees who have been already resettled to countries like the US, Canada, the UK, Sweden, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany. The refugees previously evacuated to the ETC have been of Eritrean, Sudanese, Palestinian, Ethiopian, Sri Lankan, Iraqi and Nigerian origin.

UNHCR facilitates resettlement only for recognized refugees that cannot stay at the place of first refuge. The Refugee Agency calls on industrialized countries, particularly in Europe, to offer more resettlement places for the most vulnerable among the refugees.

For more infromation please contact:

UNHCR: Romanian media: Claudia Liuţe, Public Information Associate:, (021) 201 78 98

UNHCR: International media: Roland Schoenbauer, Senior Regional Public Information Officer (on mission: +36 30 375 32 55

Romanian Immigration Office: Cristina Ilie, Spokesperson, ,0753.023.464

IOM: Mihail Clondir, Senior OperationsOfficer, 0744 373 792