May 14, 2019 / 11:00 AM / 2 months ago

REFILE-Libya aid agencies seek UN resolution to protect people caught up in fighting

(Deletes repetition of background on migrant drownings, rescues)

GENEVA, May 14 (Reuters) - A group of aid agencies in Libya called on Tuesday for a U.N. resolution to support people caught in fighting around Tripoli, where the United Nations says 66,000 people have been forced out of their homes and at least 454 killed since April 5.

Forces loyal to Libya’s beleaguered government are defending Tripoli against an offensive by the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar, who accuses the administration of being controlled by terrorists, a charge it denies.

Haftar is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates but denounced by internationally-recognised Prime Minister Fayez Serraj as an “aspiring military dictator”.

As well as uprooting thousands of Libyans, Haftar’s month-old campaign has further complicated the already chaotic situation of thousands of migrants for whom Libya’s western coast is the start of a perilous sea journey to Europe.

In the past week 65 migrants have drowned and since the Tripoli clashes began, 871 migrants have been picked up and returned to detention in often unacceptable conditions, according to the United Nations.

Charlie Yaxley, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, said nobody should be returned to Libya and returning people to Libya could not be considered a “rescue”.

A report on the situation of migrants and displaced people by the “Protection Sector” group of aid agencies, which is coordinated by UNHCR, said 3,000 migrants remained trapped in detention centres close to areas of fighting, and the use of medium and heavy weapons in populated areas continued unabated.

“The U.N. Security Council should adopt a resolution calling for the protection of civilians and accountability for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” the Protection Sector said.

It said the European Union should stop hampering search and rescue in the Mediterranean, ensure that anyone rescued can go to a safe port as required by international law, and stop supporting Libya’s use of detention centres until standards in those facilities improved. (Reporting by Tom Miles, Editing by William Maclean)

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