Wednesday, April 13, 2011

UN says 500,000 flee Libya fighting: Exodus continues

More than half a million people have fled Libya over the past two months, the UN refugee agency reported on Tuesday as it warned that the exodus had picked up pace in recent days.

Those leaving were mainly migrant workers but included more than 100,000 Libyans. They represent about eight per cent of the prewar population.

By April 10, the UN had kept track of more than 498,000 people leaving Libya by land since an uprising erupted in February, including more than 236,000 crossing to Tunisia, nearly 200,000 to Egypt, 36,500 to Niger and smaller numbers to Algeria, Chad and Sudan.

On Sunday 3,900 people crossed into Egypt, more than double the recent daily average, and nearly 3,000 entered Tunisia.

Aid agencies are concerned about growing numbers making their potentially treacherous exodus by sea, with refugees – mostly from sub-Sahara Africa – crammed on board unseaworthy fishing vessels. More than 200 are feared to have drowned last Wednesday when their boat sank in bad weather about 40 nautical miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. (read more)