Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

29 September 1995

GENEVA/VIENNA, 29 September (UNHCR/UNRWA) -- In an unprecedented joint statement issued today in Geneva and Vienna, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Ilter Turkmen, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sadako Ogata, urged Libya and other governments in the Middle East to "redouble their efforts" to resolve the current crisis facing Palestinian refugees who are being expelled from Libya or forced to live in desert camps that are reportedly being set up near Tobruk. The two agency heads called on the Libyan authorities and other affected governments in the Middle East "to exercise compassion and restraint in handling the matter and to re-double their efforts to resolve the current problem."

Many of those affected do not possess rights of residence elsewhere and other countries in the region are maintaining additional restrictions on their entry and movement. Accordingly, having left their homes and jobs, entire families have been forced to live in temporary camps on the Libyan border and have been stranded at other international borders. UNHCR and UNRWA have given assistance in order to ease the plight of these refugees, both by providing food and shelter to those at border crossing points, and by interceding on a humanitarian basis with other States in the region in order to obtain transit and residence facilities.

Thirty-two Palestinians are now stuck in no-man's land at Assaloum on the Egypt/Libya border, including several small children and a five-month-old baby. Another 36 are stranded in the town of Rafah next to the border between Egypt and Gaza. Reports coming out of Libya suggest that a further 1,500 Palestinians are currently being relocated from their homes to one or more camps in the Tobruk area, some 150 kilometres from the Egyptian border. Some 30,000 Palestinians were believed to be living in Libya before the recent expulsions began.

"I am extremely concerned about the immense difficulties which these Palestinians may face," said Mrs. Ogata, shortly after the statement was released. "To condemn them to a nebulous existence in closed camps or in no man's land is scarcely a satisfactory solution to the complex situation affecting Palestinian refugees in North Africa and the Middle East. I urge the Libyan Government to reconsider the current wave of forced relocations and expulsions, and call upon other governments to find a speedy solution to the resulting humanitarian problems."

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