Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Charity workers ‘in no-man’s land’

Five charity workers from Bradford who are part of a Gaza-bound aid convoy are stranded in “no man’s land” between two north African countries after clashing with security forces.

The men are working as a maintenance team for the Viva Palestina convoy, which delivered aid to the crisis-hit region last month.

Yesterday, the aid workers, along with two others from London, were under armed guard between the Libyan and Tunisian borders.

Earlier in the 9,000-mile trip they had been involved in scuffles with police in Al Arish, Eygpt, leading to injuries.

The stranded men say they are now being refused safe passage home and are being denied permission to pray at a nearby mosque by local security forces. Speaking from the border, Akbar Ali, 42, a father-of-nine and spokesman for the men, said the group were too scared to leave their vans.

He said: “We can’t move from this no man’s land between Tunisia and Libya. We are exhausted and shattered and these officials are showing us no mercy.

“They won’t even let us go to the mosque, we had to say our prayers in the road.

“We are British subjects and all we want to do is go home.”

Mr Ali, of Whetley Hill, Bradford, said the group had already made a 1,000-mile detour to get into Tunisia after authorities in Egypt and Libya refused them permission to travel.

Mr Ali said he had contacted the British Embassy but was told little could be done. Yvonne Ridley, co-founder of Viva Palestina, said: “This is a British convoy, the Union Jack was flying and it was a great advert for the humanitarian effort of Britain and this is how they are rewarded. I find it shocking the Government is taking this stand.”

By By Marc Meneaud

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