Travelers wait as fighting shuts runways in Libya

Migrants from Mali wait at Misrata airport before their return to their countries, in Misrata, Libya September 20, 2018. Picture taken September 20, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Travelers wait as fighting shuts runways in Libya

  • Misrata airport on Libya’s northwestern Mediterranean coast processed three to four flights a day last month
  • Armed groups fighting for territory and influence 200 km further west fired rockets toward Tripoli’s main remaining air hub

MISRATA, Libya: The queue snakes out of the departures hall and deep into the carpark at Libya’s small Misrata airport — the main remaining gateway in and out of the country since fighting shut down the last runways in the capital Tripoli.
The people lined up with their luggage are the lucky ones. Others wait for their chance to queue — sitting on the pavement, one man camped out on a stalled baggage conveyor belt, trying to get some sleep with his head resting on his suitcase.
Misrata airport on Libya’s northwestern Mediterranean coast processed three to four flights a day last month.
Then armed groups fighting for territory and influence 200 km (125 miles) further west fired rockets toward Tripoli’s main remaining air hub — the latest in a long line of clashes since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi.
Flights were rerouted to Misrata. Ever since, its warehouse-sized terminal has been packed with up to 6,000 passengers pouring on and off dozens of flights every day, say officials.
“Misrata airport is not capable of handling these numbers,” said Soliman Al-Jahimy, the airport’s spokesman.
In another part of the building, scores of migrants from other parts of Africa — who were stopped in Libya as they tried to get on to Europe — wait for UN flights to take them back home.
Elsewhere businessmen wait next to stranded families and elderly relatives in wheelchairs — hotels rooms are scarce in the city and flights are repeatedly delayed or canceled. Many wait for seven hours or more.
Beyond Misrata, the other options are a tiny airport in the western town of Zuwara, next to the Tunisian border, sometimes used by diplomats — and less busy airports in eastern Libya, a territory run by a rival administration, opposed to the UN-backed administration in the west.
All are clustered on the coast, far from the country’s southern desert hinterlands which are beset by their own chaos and fighting between tribes and other armed groups that shut the airport in that region’s main city Sebha in January 2014.
“Getting here was a disaster,” says Basheer Hassan, exhausted after his long trek to Misrata.
“There were no flights operating in the south to Tripoli or to Misrata, so we had to drive here and I suffered all the way.”


Canada to resettle group of Syrian White Helmets

Updated 28 min 23 sec ago
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Canada to resettle group of Syrian White Helmets

  • Canada has supported the work of the White Helmets by helping them to expand, train more volunteers, train more women and save more lives
  • Jordan said a group of 279 Syrian rescue workers has left the kingdom for resettlement in Western countries

OTTAWA: Canada is preparing to welcome a group of Syrian White Helmets rescuers, officials said on Friday, without specifying when they will be resettled.
“Together with a core group of international allies, Canada is working to resettle a group of White Helmets and their families after they had to flee Syria as a result of being specifically targeted by the Syrian regime and its backer, Russia,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said in a joint statement.
“As first responders, the White Helmets have witnessed first-hand some of the most appalling crimes committed by the murderous Assad regime. Canada has supported the work of the White Helmets by helping them to expand, train more volunteers, train more women and save more lives,” they said, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In July, following the evacuation of 400 White Helmets from Syria to Israel and then to Jordan, Canada announced that it was ready to accommodate 50 of them and their families, for a potential total of 250 people.
Jordan said Wednesday a group of 279 Syrian rescue workers has left the kingdom for resettlement in Western countries.
Founded in 2013, the Syrian Civil Defense, or White Helmets, is a network of first responders who rescue wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling or blasts in rebel-held territory.