UN sees 100,000 Africans fleeing Libya to Niger

Thu Mar 3, 2011 6:10am GMT

By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) -- About 100,000 Africans may try to cross from Libya into poverty-stricken Niger in coming weeks, many fearing death at the hands of Libyan rebels who think they are mercenaries, according to a U.N. report on Wednesday.

At least two sub-Saharan Africans are already reported to have been lynched in Benghazi on suspicion of being mercenaries for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, others fear being hunted down by insurgents, the report said.

Compiled by the U.N.'s humanitarian affairs coordination agency OCHA, it said more than 1,000 Africans had already crossed into Niger over the past week via the Dirkou border post and had reported that many others were too frightened to move.

Over the next month a total of up to 100,000 could reach Niger, it said.

U.N. officials said this would put a huge strain on the economy of the landlocked nation, a former French colony and cotton producer and one of the world's poorest countries.

The latest arrivals, some 500 who came on Tuesday from the Libyan capital Tripoli and the towns of Misrata and Sabah, said many sub-Saharans -- mainly migrants who had been working in Libya -- were in hiding, according to OCHA.

"They have reported that many are blocked in houses with no chance of leaving and with no help, in Mursuk, Sabah, Misrata, Tripoli and Benghazi," a situation report from the agency said.

With continuing fighting between pro-Gaddafi forces and the rebels, who hold much of eastern Libya, and signs of reprisals against migrants from countries to the south, "a huge flood of people towards Niger is feared," the report said.   Continued...

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