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Evacuation Crisis On Libyan Borders As Thousands Continue To Flee


More than 439,000 people have fled Libya during the seven week-old fighting between forces loyal to Col. Moammar Qadhafi and rebels, and the violence forces roughly 6,000 people cross Libyan borders every day.

Most of them have been third-country nationals, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

IOM and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have provided direct transportation assistance to repatriate more than 90,000 people from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Niger. Currently, more than 13,000 people are awaiting evacuation assistance.

The increase in the number of migrants in the transit camps near the border reflects IOM's need for more funding to resume their earlier frequency of flights. It repeatedly appealed for $160 million to help evacuate stranded refugees camped across the troubled Libyan border.

A March 17 U.N. Security Council resolution had decided to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to protect the civilians from aerial bombings and authorized any military action needed to implement such a ban, short of an occupation.

After a week of joint air strikes by American, British and French forces to enforce the U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over strife-torn Libya, NATO took over the command and control of the military operations.

Since then, the Qadhafi regime is preventing humanitarian access to western Libya, while there is increased international aid movement into rebel-controlled eastern Libya and a greater humanitarian presence in Benghazi in particular.

The U.S. State Department said relief agencies report no urgent humanitarian needs in the region, noting sufficient medical supplies and staff in Benghazi and other eastern areas. The key Mediterranean seaport and airport facilities in Benghazi are operational.

The rebels, who have formed a local government in Libya's second biggest city, appealed for more weapons to fight forces loyal to Qadhafi.

Badly in need for funds and arms to sustain their pressure against Qadhafi, the rebels are set to export oil from their strongholds in the country's east. NATO, which refused to arm the rebels, has claimed that air strikes by the Alliance have destroyed 30 per cent of Qadhafi forces' military capabilities.

On April 4, nearly 1,000 third-country nationals in need of evacuation assistance crossed the border into Tunisia, while around 2,900 people crossed into Egypt.

NGOs working at the border noted that some men were transporting their families to Egypt and then returning to Libya. The number of people currently at the border crossing at Salloum rose to around 4,500, raising concern that shelter arrangements are not adequate.

More than 23,000 people have crossed to Niger, mostly Nigerien nationals, over 5,000 into Chad, 2,800 into Sudan and more than 10,000 into Algeria.

More than 18,000 migrants, including Tunisians and sub-Saharan Africans, have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa since the uprising in Tunisia in January. Over 800 people fleeing Libya have arrived by boat in Malta.

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