U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance for People Fleeing the Crisis in Libya

Washington, D.C.—(ENEWSPF)—March 7, 2011.  Remarks by David DiGiovanna, Deputy Counselor, Refugee and Migration Affairs.

Allow me to thank Undersecretary General Amos, High Commissioner Guterres, and Director General Swing for their remarks today. I also want to thank, in particular, the Director General and the High Commissioner for their leadership and their organizations’ superb coordination in seamlessly providing needed and timely assistance in this fast-paced and massive movement of people from Libya. In addition, I want to commend the governments and citizens of Tunisia and Egypt, even as they go through their own political transitions, for their generous response to the needs of their nationals and others who have fled the unprecedented violence in Libya. The United States joins other nations in condemning the Libyan Government’s violent assaults on its own people, which have precipitated the current humanitarian crisis, and will continue to join others in relieving the suffering of the victims of those assaults.

Since the beginning of this humanitarian crisis, the U.S. Government has been supporting robust bilateral efforts as well as the efforts of international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to assist and evacuate people. U.S. assistance teams are in the region, working with the United Nations, NGOs and other international partners to address the urgent needs of those who are fleeing as well as those remaining inside Libya. Our financial pledge to date has been $15 million. This includes $10 million in emergency assistance to support the efforts of several international organizations, including $500,000 to OCHA’s [United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’] coordination efforts, as well as NGOs working to meet the most urgent humanitarian needs both inside and outside Libya. Additionally, we are providing $5 million in support of IOM’s [the International Organization for Migration’s] transportation of third country nationals, including $3 million announced over the weekend in partnership with IOM to strengthen efforts to return home thousands of Egyptians and other nationals from Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia who fled Libya and are now in Tunisia. And just this past weekend, eight U.S. military flights evacuated a total of 640 Egyptian nationals out of Tunisia back to Cairo.

However, support from the United States will not stop there. We expect to be able to announce additional funds to IOM, UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], the World Food Program (WFP), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shortly. Although understandably not part of the UN’s Regional Flash Appeal, ICRC’s work is a critical and complementary piece of the overall international humanitarian response. We will continue to monitor the situation along the borders as well as developments inside Libya – and stand ready to provide further assistance as necessary.

In conclusion, let me reiterate the calls of President Obama and Secretary Clinton: the violence in Libya must stop. The gross and systematic violations of human rights by the Government of Libya are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. Those who are seeking refuge from the violence in Libya must be allowed to leave Libya, and we ask countries in the region to continue to provide safe haven and support to them – and we call on all governments to assist with the repatriation of their own citizens. We thank the United Nations for the leadership it has shown in this crisis. And we look forward to the continued cooperation of the international community in bringing this crisis to an end.

Thank you.