Rescue ship to dock in Tripoli as security improves

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 25, 2011 6:18 AM
Rescue ship to dock in Tripoli as security improves

GENEVA (Reuters) - A ship sent to rescue foreigners stranded in the Libyan capital Tripoli has received permission to dock after a two-day wait at sea due to security concerns and it was hoped this could happen on Thursday, relief officials said.

"We are optimistic that this will go ahead today," said Jemini Pandya, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which chartered the vessel.

Although getting the ship into port was one half of the equation, Pandya said the IOM wanted to be sure that the journey to the port and the transfer onto the ship was safe.

She said the ship was due to have docked already but the IOM still needed to ensure it was able to get the evacuees safely to the port and onto the boat.

"All issues have now finally been resolved but it's a question of putting the whole thing into practice."

Traveling to the port means driving through Tripoli and crossing checkpoints in what has been a war zone within the last 48 hours, so ensuring security would be difficult.

Many of those with berths on the ship, which can take 300 passengers, are Filipinos and Egyptians who will be brought from their embassies or picked up by IOM vehicles. The Philippines embassy is 15 km (8 miles) from the port, Pandya said.

The IOM said more than 5,000 people had asked to be evacuated as the fighting closed in on Tripoli over the past few weeks. But when the ship arrived, it was told not to dock by Libya's Transitional National Council because conditions were too dangerous.

The organization has said some of those who had asked to be rescued might change their minds if the security situation improved, but Pandya said there were still enough to fill the places on the ship.

A second vessel capable of taking 1,000 evacuees could arrive as soon as Friday.

The IOM has evacuated 10,000 foreigners from Libya in the past six months, transporting them to the Egyptian border and helping them to return to their home countries.