Estimated 30,000 Libyans fled to south Tunisia: UNHCR

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The number of Libyans who have fled the country's Western Mountain region into southern Tunisia over the past three weeks has risen to an estimated 30,000, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.

Most of them are ethnic Berbers who told UNHCR staff they had fled fighting and indiscriminate shelling, said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), updating the agency's week-old estimate.

"We now estimate that some 30,000 Libyan civilians have fled their homes in Libya's Western Mountain region and crossed to southern Tunisia over the past three weeks," Mahecic told journalists.

"According to the latest arrivals, the towns of Nalut and Wasin (Wezen) in the Western Mountains region are now virtually deserted. Only a few men could be seen there, no women and children," he said.

Less than 10 percent of the refugees are staying in camps.

"The vast majority are hosted by the local Tunisian community, demonstrating once again their great generosity," Mahecic added.

The UNHCR said it was working with local agencies to try to provide assistance for host communities in southern Tunisia to ease the pressure on their resources.

Last week, the UNHCR announced that 15,000 refugees had passed through the Tunisian border post of Dehiba.

Wezen, a town with about 5,000 inhabitants close to the border, fell to Libyan rebels last week.

© 2011 AFP

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