Along the Libya-Tunisia Border

Posted by Eric P. Schwartz
March 17, 2011
Assistant Secretary Schwartz Visits a Refugee Camp at Tunisia-Libya Border

After a valuable trip late last week to Tunisia and Egypt with USAID's Nancy Lindborg, I wanted to share with you a brief perspective on the humanitarian challenges -- and in some cases, life and death challenges -- faced by those in the region due to the conflict in Libya.

In Tunisia, Nancy and I visited the border village of Ras Djir.  Conditions there are difficult, but there is good cooperation between the Government of Tunisia and international humanitarian organizations and basic needs are being met.  There are temporary shelter accommodations for about 20,000 at this point (the population -- mostly foreign workers -- was just over 17,000 as of March 14), an aid distribution system and the regular movement of people to their countries of origin.  Nancy and I met in Tunis with government officials and international and non-governmental organization representatives, all of whom confirmed that United States support has been critical to the international humanitarian response thus far.  This support includes deployment of Disaster Assistance Response Teams to the region to identify humanitarian needs on the ground, help coordinate international response efforts and conduct assessments; $47 million in United States support to international and non-governmental organizations providing critical aid; and U.S. military transport of Egyptians from Tunisia to Cairo.

NGO and international organizations that are operating or have contacts in Libya briefed us on the situation inside that country.  Of course, information on the situation in the west is limited. But the groups did indicate that conditions are very difficult due to conflict and lack of provisions.  For example, they reported serious medical needs as well as food shortages.  We are also concerned by reports of restrictions on movement for both third country nationals and Libyans who may wish to leave the country.  And as Human Rights Watch and others have reported, there are grave concerns about gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian principles by the Libyan regime.

In the east of Libya, the humanitarian situation was reportedly less dire at the time of our visit, but that may change.  Although there is movement of goods across the border with Egypt, the ability of people to purchase supplies or access aid could be severely limited if conflict continues in the region. The United States is providing support to international and non-governmental organizations that are attempting to assist those in the east.

At the Egyptian side of the Libyan-Egyptian border, there are now about 5,000 migrants, the large majority of whom are foreign nationals.  Egyptian government and military officials have been cooperating with the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and both organizations and others have been providing assistance.  We are encouraging the Egyptian authorities to work even more closely with international organizations -- in particular, to improve basic conditions for those foreign nationals who have to remain at the border pending return to their countries of origin, and to provide temporary refuge for those fleeing Libya who may not be able to return to their homes due to fear of persecution in their countries of

While our response to this crisis has been prompt and effective, there may be more significant humanitarian challenges ahead.  Our trip was an opportunity to assess current efforts and future requirements, highlight our commitment to -- and express solidarity with -- the governments and people of the region in their efforts to provide humanitarian assistance, and encourage continued policies of temporary refuge on the part of Libya's neighbors to the victims of Gaddafi's regime.

Related Entry:Op-Ed -- In Libya, Our Aid Matters



South Korea
March 17, 2011

Palgye in South Korea writes:

four NYT`s repoters are mossong in Libya.

If it fails, a political crisis, but if my calculations, the time of two weeks, enough, the first genetic commandos secure the area and joined the militia and the army, the army attacked, a week is considered to be accessible to Tripoli.

Mercenaries, called the charter is expected gonna give up the fight. Troops surrounded a Paladin does not expect to put up fierce resistance. If resist, fight-surrendered to the militia, thinks U.S. casualties are rare. After the siege, through negotiation, the delegation regime, or, to be arranged in the internal coup d'etat, is expected.

Base camp for the landing and take time is 2-3 days, the Libyan government's power core of the Air Force, Libya's air force already, by the former president, then it is difficult to compare,but lacking a lot compared to the U.S. air force I think.

They calculated that in two days is left. Failure than success on the burden of sustaining sweetness, likely to succeed, the intervention, 50% were over, and now I think. All suggest that, even after you are refused. After winning show some promise ticked, but my judgment, now in the Middle East, the suppression of democracy in Libya began to think. If successful, the Republican Party to support the oil tycoon, too, rejoicing to think that even with the possibility of sponsorship.

New Mexico, USA
March 18, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

News Item;

United Nations (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council voted Thursday evening to impose a no-fly zone and other measures to try to halt Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's rapid advances against rebel positions in his country.


It's time to rock the casbah, and deliver the aid.

Don't forget to ask the Lybian people how they would like their Ghaddafi done. Raw, a little burnt on the outside with still some pink in the middle , or crispy crittered?

And will the ICC proclaim justice done, when Lybians are living fat and happy in their new formed democracy and sharing the oil wealth among the tribes?

It shouldn't be lost on the Lybian population that the vast majority of Americans in this country greatly respect them for trying to grab hold that brass ring of liberty and pull themselves up by it, bein' it's at the end of the rope.

And know that we gave Ghaddafi all the rope he needed to hang himself with.

So the world could find consensus to act.

Let's git 'er done...

John P.
March 18, 2011

John P. in Greece writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico

QUOTE: Raw, a little burnt on the outside with still some pink in the middle , or crispy crittered? END OF QUOTE.

Sometimes you are not polite Eric! (LOL). Maybe that's why I love your writing style.

Where your alternatives are? Why don't you offer him a tent choice?

He can also choose the “boiled dish–no salt”, as they do it in... the intensive care…

-always tuned... (CHUCKLE)

New Mexico, USA
March 18, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Well John,

I thought in considering the Lybian people's wishes in the matter, that I was being very polite in suggesting my gov. ask them how they would like Ghaddafi served up to them hot off the grill of intervention.


These are some pretty dark days for a lot of folks, and I'm just honoring one of the precepts for my being on this blog, in that in finding humor in the most unexpected of places, it will rub off on folks and inspire them to go looking for it themselves.

All I know is it keeps me somwhat sane in crazy times like these.

Oh wait...I've forgotten...didn't Lybians invent shish kebab?

Saif on a stick...???


But hey! Cowboy diplomacy is fully deperndant on the strength and temperament of the horse ridden. I've said this for years and it holds true in all cases.

There was a serious side to that post that is probably a bit more productive to think about than flambe in its implications you know...

I am trying to balance the irreverent with the extremely practical in my vision of US foreign policy, and I gotta say that I've tested the phrase;

"regime replacement therapy"

...on some of my fellow citizens, and every one of them has found both humor and truth in the contemplation of it.

Especially when I suggest we do that every few years on a regular basis here in America.

They all inherently recognize that other methods are sometimes required to get there from here besides a vote on the matter.

And for all those folks in government that may be reading has been my experience in this unscientific poll conducted, that it has been the civil servant that has appreciated the concept the most!

I can't imagine why the State dept. wouldn't.

Although I'm not sure if they would publicly state their opinion on that, on pain of inevitably submittng their resignation for talking out of school.

All I can suggest is that the phrase does generate great public understanding.

It's up to the President as to whether he wants to persue that in a world hungry for liberty.


April 3, 2011

VNM in Vietnam writes:

Great post, very informative. I think a lot of people will find this very useful.


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