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Ethnic Berbers flee conflict in western Libya, reach Tunisia

Briefing notes

Ethnic Berbers flee conflict in western Libya, reach Tunisia

12 April 2011

Over the past week more than 500 Libyans have fled conflict in Libya's Western Mountains region and sought shelter in the Dehiba area of southern Tunisia, some 200 kilometres south of the border crossing at Ras Adjir. They have told us that mounting pressure on the cities of the Western Mountains by government forces, lack of basic medical supplies and shortages of food prompted their departure.

This group is mainly of Berber ethnicity, and with very limited resources. They have significant humanitarian needs. The Tunisian authorities have allocated a sports field in Remada town, some 45 kilometres from the border, where UNHCR has established a camp with 130 tents so far. Electricity and water have been connected and other services are being set up. UNHCR is working with a local partner Al Taáwon, and the Tunisian Red Crescent to rapidly provide support.

The local community in Tunisia has offered considerable assistance, opening homes to hundreds of Libyan families. Youth hostels in Dehiba and Tataouine further west are also being used to shelter families. A school near the camp in Remada has offered to enroll Libyan students.

Meanwhile UNHCR is hearing from people crossing into Egypt of displacement in eastern Libya between Ajdabiyya and Tobruk, with thousands of families now in Benghazi and Tobruk. While many are staying with local families, a small number are taking refuge in schools and empty buildings. People tell us they fear being trapped in Ajdabiyya should government forces prevail.

An estimated 1,200 displaced families are in Tobruk itself where UNHCR's stores of aid items - mainly blankets and mattresses - are being distributed by our partner, the Libyan Red Crescent.

People continue to flee Libya by sea to Italy and Malta. This morning the Maltese armed forces rescued a boat carrying 116 people - one of them a woman who had died, according to media reports. Over 1100 people have arrived in Malta from Libya on five boats since March 26th. Meanwhile in Italy, three boats carrying 1,008 people arrived on Lampedusa island from Libya over the weekend, mainly Somalis and Nigerians. Since March 26th, 3,358 people who departed from the Libyan coast have reached southern Italy.

As of 10 April 498,313 people have fled the violence via the land borders in Libya, including 199,7000 to Egypt (83,218 Egyptians, 56,656 Libyans and 59,827 others), 236,151 to Tunisia (20,228 Tunisians, 48,957 Libyans and 169,198 others), 36,580 to Niger (including 33,675 from Niger and 2,905 others), 14,126 to Algeria, 6,219 to Chad and 2,800 to Sudan.

On April 10th some 3,900 people crossed the Sallum border into Egypt, of whom 3,000 are Libyans. This is double the average number of Libyans that have crossed on a daily basis in the past few weeks. On the same day 2,992 people crossed at Ras Adjir into Tunisia, including 2,173 Libyans. These numbers include some Libyans who are crossing for trade.

For media enquiries, please contact:

On the Egyptian border: Helene Caux on mobile: +201 294 66 378

On the Tunisian border: Firas Kayal on mobile +216 508 561 99

In Geneva:

Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 91 20

Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617

Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38