Italy plans aid mission for Libyan refugees

Tue Mar 1, 2011 9:24pm GMT

* Rome plans aid for 10,000 refugees fleeing Libya

* Berlusconi govt says refugee situation "critical"

ROME, March 1 (Reuters) - Italy will dispatch a humanitarian mission to Tunisia to provide food and medical aid to as many as 10,000 people who have fled violence in neighbouring Libya, the Italian government said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government said the situation facing Libyan refugees was "truly critical" and that aid would also help prevent a wave of African migrants leaving for Italian shores, a government spokesman said.

"This is an emergency mission of a humanitarian kind, which gives relief and keeps the refugees in Tunisian territory, with the agreement of Tunisian authorities," Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told Italian television after Berlusconi met his ministers late on Tuesday to discuss the Libyan crisis.

"I hope this is followed by the intervention of other European countries."

Maroni said the mission would leave Italy within 48 hours.

Tens of thousands have fled Libya since an uprising against Muammar Gaddafi prompted a violent crackdown by his security forces, creating chaos in some areas.   Continued...

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