UNHCR to ramp up migrant camp at Tunisia-Libya border

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The UN refugees agency said Thursday that it planned to double the capacity of a camp at the Tunisian border, in order to provide shelter for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in Libya.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 people crossed into Tunisia on Wednesday, Adrian Edwards, spokesman from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told AFP, noting that most of those new arrivals were Bangladeshis.

The overwhelming majority of those who had arrived in Tunisia over previous days are Egyptians, many who worked in the construction industry in Libya.

"The camp we've established inside Tunisia, we're trying to expand the number of places there. We had 10,000, next step is to get it to 20,000," he added, referring to the capacity of the temporary camp.

Edwards said the focus of the UN agency remains on ending the gridlock at the border, where many are still awaiting onward transportation to their home countries or onto other cities.

"We're still not really in a position where we can be certain of positive conditions for those arriving. We're in a crisis situation there.

"This work on getting geared up so that we can decongest is still very much a priority for us," he added.

The UNHCR had launched an joint urgent appeal with the International Organization for Migration late Tuesday for a mass evacuation at the Tunisia-Libya border.

Following the appeal, Europe, the United States and Canada sent planes, ships and funds to help get the migrants home.

The International Organization for Migration said it planned to evacuate about 1,700 people from Tunisia to Egypt on Thursday.

© 2011 AFP

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