Pro-regime forces control Libyan border with Tunisia: UNHCR

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GENEVA – Heavily armed pro-regime forces are now manning the Libyan side of the border with Tunisia, and fewer than 2,000 people fled across on Thursday, the UN refugees agency said on Friday. “On previous days, between 10,000 and 15,000 fled every day into Tunisia. Yesterday less than 2,000 made it across the border,” said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “UNHCR is very concerned that the security situation in Libya may be preventing people crossing the border,” she added. “The border on the Libyan side of the border is now manned by heavily armed pro-government forces.”
Those that did manage to cross the border told the UNHCR that “their mobile phones had been confiscated en route, along with cameras.” “Many of those who have crossed the border appear to be frightened and are unwilling to speak,” said the spokeswoman. “We believe that has implications — that they may have been intimidated in some way,” she added. The current border arrangements and situation leading to the frontier appeared to be slowing the outflow from Libya into Tunisia.
“We’re hearing reports… that the entire road was full of Gaddafi supported military, that there were checkpoints all along the way,” she said. UNHCR officials are planning to speak to as many people who made it across the border as possible, “to figure out why the numbers have dropped off so dramatically.” She believed however that “if military control of the border and roads reduces, we anticipate that a huge exodus of people could resume.” Meanwhile, with the help of the international community, aid agencies have been able to ease congestion at the Tunisian side of the frontier.