UNHCR hears of Eritrean refugees detained in Libya

 The UN refugee agency on Tuesday pleaded to combattants in Libya to allow civilians to flee, as it revealed that it has heard of Eritrean refugees being detained in the country.

“With intensified fighting in Libya, UNHCR is becoming worried that people needing to flee combat areas and seek refuge are either unable to go or being prevented from doing so,” said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

She noted the low numbers of women and children arriving at Libya’s borders with Egypt and Tunisia, saying this was unusual for such a situation.

“We appeal again to all parties to ensure safe passage for all civilians fleeing violence,” she said.

Fleming also revealed that the agency is “hearing of Eritrean refugees being detained in both eastern and western parts of the country.”

Relief agencies have been warning that sub-Saharan Africans are particularly vulnerable as they faced animosity in Libya after some were reportedly hired by Moamer Kadhafi’s forces as mercenaries.

© 2011 AFP

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