Libya refugee aid operation intensifies

5th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Libya's neighbours Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt, as well as France and Italy, mobilised Saturday to receive and repatriate a tide of refugees fleeing the unrest.

By Friday the number of refugees crossing the Tunisian border with Libya since February 20 had reached 100,000, the Tunisian civil defence agency said,

The country is waiting for a new influx of thousands of refugees, after only 3,000 arrived on Friday, according to the regional Tunisian Red Crescent organiser.

"We are expecting that the normal flow of around 10,000 new arrivals a day will resume," Monji Slim said.

At the northwestern border with Tunisia refugees were reported to be waiting on the Libyan side in nearby towns, knowing that the border was jammed. Most Egyptians were reported to have been evacuated."

At midday on Saturday groups of dozens of refugees -- Bangladeshis, Somalis, Ghanaians and Vietnamese -- were crossing the border on foot.

In Algeria authorities said they were reinforcing their reception capacity for refugees from Libya with a new facility at Ifri, about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) southeast of Algiers.

A humanitarian convoy left Tabessa in the far east of Algeria for the border between Libya and Tunisia to help refugees, the Algerian news agency APS said.

The humanitarian convoy from Tabessa was made up of four trailer-trucks carrying 100 tonnes of food, mineral water and blankets, a field kitchen, seven all-terrain vehicles carrying medical teams and equipment and a refrigerated truck loaded with medical supplies.

Other convoys would deliver about 200 tonnes of food, medical supplies and blankets to the refugees in the coming days, according to Mohamed-Laid Aggoun, vice-president of the Algerian Red Crescent.

The state oil group is helping finance the operation.

The new camp at Ifri will have 10 tents each capable of sleeping 16 people and will reinforce the small campsites already in existence at the border posts of Tinalkoum, Tarat and Debdeb.

These have had 400 tents added and been assigned eight civil defence doctors, according to the organisation's director Mustapha Lahbiri, quoted by the Algerian APS news agency.

An Egyptian frigate, meanwhile, left the Tunisian port of Zarzis, near the border with Libya, Saturday with 400 refugees aboard.

In Europe, France and Italy launched aid efforts.

The French helicopter carrier Mistral set off from the southern port of Toulon Saturday bound for southern Tunisia from where it will help evacuate Egyptian refugees from Libya.

Accompanied by a frigate the Mistral was due to repatriate at least 900 Egyptians from Sarzis. The ship would arrive Monday and reach the Egyptian port of Alexandria after three days at sea.

An Italian navy patrol boat also set out for Libya carrying a cargo of aid including tents blankets and water purification kits to Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya and a stronghold for rebels fighting to unseat veteran ruler Moamer Kadhafi.

In Senegal the government said 136 of its nationals had been flown home.

© 2011 AFP

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