OTTAWA - The Green Party of Canada is calling attention to a developing humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are trying to escape the intensifying civil war in Libya. International watchdog groups report that the Libyan opposition forces are being accused of human rights abuses and targeted attacks against civilian refugees within the opposition-controlled regions of Eastern Libya because they perceive the workers as pro-Khaddafi.
“Insofar as the Canadian government has recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the new political authority in Libya, it is incumbent on Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird to encourage them to respect human rights and not exacerbate this refugee crisis,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May.
Much of Libya’s economy is dependent on migrant workers from surrounding African countries, often employed as drivers, gardeners and construction workers. The International Organization for Migration is reporting that a minimum of 70,000 refugees have crossed into Chad alone, with even more escaping to Egypt and Tunisia.
The conflict in Libya began in February between pro and anti-Khaddafi’s forces and rival tribal groups. There are over 140 different Tribes in Libya making it one of the most complex tribal countries in Africa. An initial NATO intervention under a U.N. "Responsibility to Protect" mandate has since evolved into a regime-change bombing campaign to oust Colonel Khaddafi.
“The number of civilian deaths in this conflict continues to escalate and now even more are suffering in this mass migration out of Libya. Migrant workers are being targeted by violence and forced into untenable living conditions as refugees,” said International Affairs Critic Eric Walton. “Canada and NATO need to convince TNC leaders that protecting the human rights and safety of migrant workers is an international demonstration of responsible and ethical government".
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