Aid Agencies Brace For Flow of Libyan Refugees

Men flee Libya. Aid agencies working along Libya's border with Egypt brace for an influx of refugees as Moammar Gaddafi's forces advance into rebel-held cities in eastern Libya. Photo by: Magharebia / CC BY

Aid agencies working along Libya’s borders with Egypt and Tunisia are bracing for a mass influx of refugees after the United Nations Security Council imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in the country.

“The imposition of the no-fly zone has implications which could impact on both the western and eastern borders,” Reuters quotes Andrew Harper of the U.N. refugee agency. “If there is one strategy that we have, it is to be extremely flexible and prepare for the worst case scenario.”

Harper said the worst that could happen is if Egypt and Tunisia blocked their borders with Libya. These borders need to be maintained and kept open so the international community can do its work, he added.

Some 300,000 people, mostly migrant workers, have fled Libya through Egypt and Tunisia over the past weeks. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the humanitarian crisis in the region “is far from over.”

Aid pledges

The U.K. said on Friday (March 18) that it is supporting additional emergency evacuation flights to help repatriate 6,000 migrant workers stranded on the Libya-Tunisia border. The flights will be delivered through the International Organization for Migration.

Australia committed March 20 a further 4 million Australian dollars ($3.98 million) in humanitarian aid for those fleeing the hostilities in Libya. The funding will be channeled through UNHCR and IOM. This brings Australia’s total donation to aid Libyans seeking refuge in Tunisia and Egypt to AU$15 million.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.