100,000 flee to Libya neighbours in past week: UNHCR

A UNHCR count showed that migrants were mainly Egyptians and Tunisians.

Updated: Feb 27, 2011, 22:55 PM IST

Geneva: The UN refugee agency on Sunday said
that "close to 100,000 people", mainly foreign migrants, have
fled Libya to neighbouring countries during the past week of
turmoil in the North African nation.

"UNHCR emergency teams are working with Tunisian and
Egyptian authorities and NGOs (non-governmental organizations)
to support close to 100,000 people that have fled the violence
in Libya in the past week," the office of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement.

A UNHCR count showed that they were overwhelmingly
foreign migrants, mainly Egyptians and Tunisians.

The Red Crescent said earlier that more than 10,000
people fled Libya into Tunisia at the Ras Jedir post yesterday
alone, most of them Egyptians, calling the situation a
"humanitarian crisis" as the flow grew.

Before those arrivals, the Tunisian government said
that 40,000 people had crossed from Libya since February 20,
while Egyptian authorities accounted for 55,000 people fleeing
since February 19, according to the UNHCR.

The refugee agency urged foreign help for Egypt and
Tunisia to cope with the exodus.

"We are committed to assisting Tunisia and Egypt in
helping each and every person fleeing Libya," the High
Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said
"We call upon the international community to respond
quickly and generously to enable these governments to cope
with this humanitarian emergency," he added.

The UNHCR revealed that its staff had crossed the
border from Egypt, and met Libyan police and military nearby
who said that they had defected from government forces and
were working with local committees of tribal leaders.

Those tribal leaders told the agency there was a need
for humanitarian assistance in Libya, "with a critical
shortage of food throughout the eastern region, as well as
shortages of some medical supplies," it added.

The reports of food shortages echo unconfirmed claims
by some Libyan opposition members.

The UN`s World Food Programme warned on Friday that
Libya`s food supply chain was "at risk of collapsing" in the
import-dependent country after ships stopped docking and
distribution was reportedly hampered by the violence.

UNHCR staff also found 75 people from Bangladesh,
Sudan, Thailand and Pakistan without passports in a patch of
no-man`s land between Libya and Egypt.

The agency said it had reached an agreement with
Egyptian border authorities to provide those migrants with
shelter, blankets, and food.

Bureau Report