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UNHCR says open borders needed for people fleeing Libya

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UNHCR says open borders needed for people fleeing Libya

23 February 2011

GENEVA - The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) welcomes the positive indications it has received yesterday and today from Tunisia and Egypt that they will maintain open borders for people fleeing violence in Libya. Given the continued reports of violence and human rights abuses inside Libya it is imperative that people fleeing the country are able to reach safety.

Following a request from the Tunisian Government, UNHCR staff have deployed to the Ras Adjir border crossing with Libya where they are working alongside the Tunisian Red Crescent and government authorities. They will be monitoring the situation and identifying vulnerable individuals for whom immediate assistance is needed - such as children without parents, women with children, and the elderly. A further UNHCR team is being flown in today.

Our staff at the Tunisia-Libya border have reported a steady flow of people since yesterday. Most of the arrivals are Tunisian nationals who have been working in Libya. Among others have been Libyans, Turks, Moroccans, and nationals of Middle Eastern and West African countries.

At present, people are staying in local hostels, shelters and with local families. The Ministry of Defence has identified a location for the establishment of a temporary camp in the event of a large influx of people. UNHCR will work closely with the authorities to enable them to set up this camp for new arrivals. In addition, a UNHCR flight carrying tents and other relief items for up to 10,000 people is expected to arrive in Tunisia this weekend.