Babylon & Beyond

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LIBYA: International aid groups scrambling to help refugees from Libya

February 25, 2011 | 10:07 am

International aid agencies appealed Friday for help in dealing with a flood of refugees out of violence-wracked Libya, reporting at least 30,000 crossing into Tunisia and Egypt in recent days and anticipation of an escalating exodus.

"The arrivals are increasing every day. We are at over 30,000 people since Monday," Jean-Philippe Chauzy, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, told reporters in Geneva. "We can expect other arrivals, in the order of tens of thousands of people."

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees called on the international community to provide support to Tunisia and Egypt to help those countries cope with the influx of refugees. Most are Tunisian and Egyptian workers in Libya's oil industry trying to escape the violence gripping the country as supporters of Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi clash with opponents demanding he step down.

Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the refugee agency in Geneva, commended the "humanitarian spirit" shown by the Tunisian and Egyptian governments in providing temporary shelter and food for those crossing out of Libya.

The International Committee of the Red Cross appealed for donations to cover emergency care for the refugees, predicting the needs of those displaced by the violence will grow as the battle for power intensifies.

--Carol J. Williams