US Ambassador Richard Norland convened a virtual meeting on April 20 with Mr. Jean-Paul Cavalieri, Chief of Mission of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Libya, who briefed the Ambassador and Embassy staff on UNHCR's critical activities benefiting internally-displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, asylum-seekers, and their host communities.
Mr. Cavalieri also described UNHCR's ongoing coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Libyan authorities to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ambassador Norland and Mr. Cavalieri discussed the need for an immediate, humanitarian cessation of hostilities, noting that refugees, asylum-seekers, and displaced people are significantly affected by the conflict and that a number of hospitals and health facilities had come under attack.
They also stressed the importance of preventing any discrimination and stigmatization of refugees and migrants in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus can affect anyone and does not recognize nationality or race.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR is scaling up its health sector assistance in communities throughout Libya. The agency has donated hygiene materials, medical equipment and six all-terrain ambulances to local municipalities, health authorities and Libyan Red Crescent including in southern cities where healthcare access is limited.
UNHCR Libya provides critical assistance and services to IDPs, refugees, and asylum-seekers, including emergency items, medical aid, and cash assistance. UNHCR also registers refugees and asylum-seekers and facilitates the safe resettlement of the most vulnerable. There are over 48,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Libya, and over 380,000 IDPs, of which 200,000 have been newly displaced since April 2019 alone.
The agency advocates for a gradual release into the community of refugees and migrants held in detention or upon disembarkation following rescue at sea. So far in 2020, 231 asylum-seekers and refugees have been released from detention following UNHCR's intervention.
The U.S. Department of State's contribution to UNHCR-Libya through the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) totaled $20.2 million in FY 2019. Continued U.S. support for UNHCR is helping refugee populations to respond to the pandemic, especially given their unique vulnerability to COVID-19.
(Source: US Embassy)