Britain to airlift Egyptians fleeing Libya

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Britain is to airlift home thousands of Egyptians from Tunisia's border with Libya, Prime Minister David Cameron said, with the operation to get under way Wednesday.

Escaping the unrest in Libya, growing numbers of people have fled over the northwestern border into Tunisia, including Egyptians now stuck in refugee camps with little prospect of getting home.

"Today we're launching a UK operation to airlift several thousand people back to Egypt from the Libyan-Tunisian border, with the first flight scheduled to leave the UK later today," Cameron told parliament.

"These people shouldn't be kept in transit camps if it's possible to take them back to their home."

France said earlier Wednesday it was sending heavy-lift planes and a ship to create a land and sea bridge to ferry 5,000 Egyptian refugees fleeing Libya home from the Tunisian border.

Colonel Moez Dachraoui, in charge of handling arrivals through Tunisia's main border post with Libya, told AFP that around 31,000 Egyptians had crossed since February 20, a few days after the start of an uprising against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

He warned of a looming humanitarian crisis as the numbers swell.

© 2011 AFP

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