Thursday, February 24, 2011

UNHCR is preparing for a "significant drain" from Libya

Geneva. (Reuters) .- The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has revealed that it is preparing for an eventual "significant exodus" of the Libyan population, under the repression of popular revolts against the regime of President Muammar Gaddafi. "So far we have not seen a huge exodus, but we are very concerned that we are receiving reports of widespread violence and persecution of specific persons, which could cause a significant exodus," said the spokesperson for this office, Sybella Wilkes , in an interview with Reuters.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that there is a steady stream of people coming from Libya to the border with Tunisia, although most appear to be Tunisian immigrants returning to their country. The UNHCR spokesman Sybella Wilkes, told EFE that there are Libyans and other nationalities, and stressed that both the Libyan borders with Tunisia and Egypt remain open.

He said the spokeswoman, UNHCR has received reports of groups of people on the road to border with Egypt, but also in large part Egyptians who have chosen to return. The spokeswoman declined to make any estimate of the number of Libyans who try to leave the country because of violence: "We have no numbers," he said.

In this context, the official noted that UNHCR is making contingency plans ahead of a possible humanitarian emergency, although with very limited room for maneuver because of the blockade by the Libyan authorities. However, he noted that the country's geographical location which will allow forward movement of its citizens to leave.

"We anticipate that a high proportion of their lives trying to flee, escaping a direct persecution. It is possible that people are taking boats to try to reach Europe. So the most viable options are Tunisia, Egypt and North Africa, through sea, "said Wilkes. While the spokesman reiterated the call made hours earlier by the High Commissioner of this agency, Melissa Fleming, the African and European countries to be "flexible" and welcome the Libyan immigrants in a "humanitarian gesture", as the organization has received "disturbing reports" about governments that are refusing to other refugees to believe that they are mercenaries Gaddafi.

"African refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea have told us that at present the situation is very dangerous for those with the black face because they are confused with mercenaries from Libya," the woman said. According to figures from the international agency, before the protests broke out there were more than 8,000 refugees and 3,000 asylum seekers in Libya, from countries such as Chad, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and the Palestinian territories.

Now about 4,500 people - mostly Tunisians, Algerians and Libyans - have left the country bound for Tunisia.

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