(AFP) – Mar 5, 2011
TUNIS — Libya's neighbours Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt, mobilised Saturday to receive and repatriate a tide of refugees fleeing the unrest, with help from European countries and the United States.
By Friday, the number of refugees crossing the Tunisian border with Libya since February 20 had reached 100,000, the Tunisian civil defence agency said,
The country was waiting for a new influx of thousands of refugees, after only 3,000 arrived on Friday, said the Red Crescent's Tunisian organiser Monji Slim.
"We are expecting that the normal flow of around 10,000 new arrivals a day will resume," Slim said.
At the northwestern border with Tunisia, refugees were reported to be waiting on the Libyan side in nearby towns, knowing that the border was jammed. Most Egyptians were reported to have been evacuated.
At midday Saturday dozens of refugees -- Bangladeshis, Somalis, Ghanaians and Vietnamese -- crossing the border on foot.
In Algeria, officials said they were reinforcing their reception capacity for refugees from Libya with a new facility at Ifri, about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) southeast of Algiers.
A humanitarian convoy left Tabessa in the far east of Algeria for the border between Libya and Tunisia to help refugees, the Algerian news agency APS said.
The Tabessa convoy comprised four trailer-trucks carrying 100 tonnes of food, mineral water and blankets, a field kitchen, seven all-terrain vehicles carrying medical teams and equipment and a refrigerated truck loaded with medical supplies.
Other convoys would deliver about 200 tonnes of food, medical supplies and blankets to the refugees in the coming days, Mohamed-Laid Aggoun, vice-president of the Algerian Red Crescent said.
The state oil group is helping to finance the operation.
The new camp at Ifri will have 10 tents, each capable of sleeping 16 people, and will reinforce the small campsites at the border posts of Tinalkoum, Tarat and Debdeb.
These have had 400 tents added and been assigned eight civil defence doctors, said the organisation's director Mustapha Lahbiri, quoted by the Algerian APS news agency.
The United States contributed $3 million to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to repatriate foreign nationals fleeing Libya, said a State Department statement Saturday.
It was part of a joint US-IOM partnership "to strengthen efforts to return home thousands of Egyptians and other nationals from Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia who fled Libya," the statement added.
In the meantime, two US military transport planes flew a group of Egyptian refugees to Cairo Saturday from Tunisia after they had fled unrest in neighbouring Libya, the State Department said.
The C-130 aircraft arrived in the island of Djerba, Tunisia on Friday with a load of humanitarian supplies, including blankets, rolls of plastic sheeting and water containers.
Two other C-130s were scheduled to evacuate more Egyptians from Tunisia to Cairo later Saturday, the State Department said in a statement.
Growing numbers of people desperate to escape the violence in Libya have fled over the northwestern border into Tunisia, including Egyptians now stuck in refugee camps with little prospect of getting home.
Around 100,000 people have crossed into Tunisia since February 20, days after the uprising against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi erupted, Tunisia's regional Red Crescent representative said on Friday.
An Egyptian frigate, meanwhile, left the Tunisian port of Zarzis, near the border with Libya, Saturday with 400 refugees aboard.
French helicopter carrier Mistral set off from the southern port of Toulon Saturday bound for southern Tunisia from where it will help evacuate Egyptian refugees from Libya.
Accompanied by a frigate the Mistral was due to repatriate at least 900 Egyptians from Sarzis. The ship would arrive Monday and reach the Egyptian port of Alexandria after three days at sea.
And an Italian navy patrol boat also set out for Libya carrying a cargo of aid including tents blankets and water purification kits to Benghazi.
The second largest city in Libya, it has become a stronghold for rebels fighting to unseat veteran ruler Moamer Kadhafi.
In Senegal the government said 136 of its nationals had been flown home.
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