Black migrants barred from fleeing Libya

African migrants wait for buses upon arrival at the port of the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi (AFP Photo / Saeed Khan)
Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) wants to screen some 3,000 migrant workers, most of whom are of sub-Saharan origin, to identify Gaddafi mercenaries among them. They will not be allowed out of the country until the process is completed.

The news emerged via the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is attempting to evacuate the migrants.

"We have had to stop the evacuation process for the time being because the NTC says they have to make sure of the migrants, to register them and to identify who is a real migrant and who is not," spokesman Jumbe Omari Jumbe told Reuters.

More than 3,000 migrants and their family members, mainly from Chad, Niger, Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria, but also from Jordan, Egypt and Pakistan, are stuck in Sabha. The city is controlled by pro-Gaddafi forces and is under siege by the troops of the NTC.

Many of them have no identity papers because they fled from violence and possible persecution in great haste, says the IOM. Some of the refugees had been living in Libya for years before the civil war forced them to flee.

The IOM's latest plan had been to evacuate the migrants by road to Tripoli, for further transport to Tunisia, as the road to Chad was deemed perilous, Jumbe said.

Sub-Saharan residents of Libya have been targeted by rebel forces ever since they took control of the capital, Tripoli. There were reports of mass round-ups and abuse of the migrants.

Before the war, between 1.5 million and 2.5 million migrants lived in the country, but more than 600,000 have fled, mainly to Tunisia and Egypt, according to the IOM.