100,000 flee Libya to escape violence, says UNHCR


GENEVA – The UN refugee agency said Sunday that about 100,000 foreign migrants, mainly Egyptians and Tunisians, have fled Libya to neighbouring countries during the past week of turmoil.
“UNHCR emergency teams are working with Tunisian and Egyptian authorities and NGOs (non governmental organisations) to support the migrants,” officer of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement. The Red Crescent said the migrants entered at the Ras Jedir post on Saturday. According to the UNHCR, the Tunisian government said Saturday that before these arrivals, 40,000 people had crossed from Libya since February 20, while Egyptian authorities accounted for 55,000 people fleeing since February 19.
The refugee agency urged international community to help Egypt and Tunisia to cope with the exodus. “We are committed to assisting Tunisia and Egypt in helping each and every person fleeing Libya,” said the High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. The UNHCR revealed that its staff had crossed the border from Egypt, and met Libyan police and military nearby who said they had defected from government forces and were working with local committees of tribal leaders.
The tribal leaders told the agency that there was a critical shortage of food and medical supplies throughout the eastern region and urgent assistance was needed. The reports of food shortages echoed unconfirmed claims by some Libyan opposition members. The UN’s World Food Programme warned Friday that Libya’s food supply chain was at a risk of collapsing after the ships stopped docking and distribution got hampered by the violence in the import-dependent country.
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.