UN praises massive help for migrants fleeing Libya

Fri Feb 25, 2011 2:33pm GMT

* Entire families now crossing into Tunisia and Egypt * More than 30,000 have fled to neighbouring countries

GENEVA Feb 25 (Reuters) - Entire families of migrants are returning from Libya to Tunisia and Egypt, where local people are hosting strangers in their homes, international aid groups said on Friday.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said many Tunisians and Egyptians were driving to the Libyan border to help those who have fled a crackdown on protests that has killed up to 2,000 people, according to a French estimate.

"We are seeing unprecedented support being offered by local people," UNHCR chief spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

The International Organisation for Migration said on Thursday that at least 30,000 people, mainly Tunisian and Egyptian migrant workers, had fled the violence in Libya.

The majority of those crossing into Tunisia and Egypt are nationals of those countries, but many need to spend a night in border areas before heading to their home cities and villages.

There are rising numbers of women and children among the crowds, which are increasing in size by the day, according to Jemini Pandya of the IOM, another Geneva-based body.

"The families are starting to come over," Pandya said.   Continued...

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