Some 100 members of the Eritrean community in Malta held a demonstration in Valletta this afternoon where they called on Malta and the international community to help evacuate asylum seekers stranded in Libya.

They said the Eritreans could not return to their country because they would be prosecuted, and they were not part of the international evacuation effort and had thus been stranded, without protection, in Libya. Some were in danger of being shot, being mistaken for Gaddafi's mercenaries.

The demonstration was attended by some 100 persons, who said there are some 2,000 Eritreans in Tripoli and others all over Libya.

They carried placards which read "Do not let asylum seekers die" and "Evacuate and Protect".

They also read an open letter which they intend to present to the Maltese government, urging it to help the stranded asylum seekers, for humanitarian reasons.

"Asylum seekers in Libya have long faced blatant violations of their human rights. Since the unrest in Libya started, matters have escalated further. Our brothers and sisters have told us of atrocious racist violence they are suffering in at the hands of anti-government protesters, especially because of reports that the mercenaries engaged by Gaddafi are sub-Saharan Africans.

"There are reports that sub-Saharan Africans are being indiscriminately stabbed and killed with knives and machetes in the city of Benghazi. We have information that at least two Eritreans were killed, while several others were stabbed and injured," the letter says.

In Tripoli, they said that 16 Eritreans were missing.

"We appeal to you: please do not forget these and other asylum seekers who are stranded in Libya without any state to protect them. They are either stuck in prisons and detention centres or hiding in their homes, their lives are at risk. Apart from the fear of attack, they are suffering hunger and thirst as food and other supplies run short."

They commended the Maltese government for its assistance to evacuate foreign nationals from Libya and called on it to accept to shelter some of the asylum seekers, particularly those who have spouses or relatives in Malta.

Also taking part in the demonstration were the Jesuit Refugee Service, Alternattiva and Graffitti.

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