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Aid agency concern as Libyan refugee numbers fall

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Aid agency concern as Libyan refugee numbers fall


The large numbers of people fleeing Libya has dropped off significantly in the last few days.

For the moment, it remains unclear if the fall is because the refugees are being held back on the other side of the border.

Aid agencies are preparing for the worst. The head of the International Organisation for Migration, William Lacy Swing, said: ‘‘One has to be prepared in case large waves of migrant workers start coming across again, or if it becomes a case of mixed migration, where you have in addition to migrant workers, you have refugees. Then you have another situation.’‘

Despite concern it lacks resources to cope with a further large influx, Tunisia’s government insisted it is ready for all eventualities.

Tunisia’s Social Affairs Minister Mohamed Ennaser said: ‘‘We have taken all the necessary measures to deal with these new waves of refugees. We’ve also doubled our efforts and cooperation with civil organisations.’‘

More than 200,000 migrants have fled Libya in the last two weeks. While many continue to be repatriated, substantial numbers still remain stuck in makeshift shelters.

Our correspondent on the Tunisia-Libya border, Jamel Ezzedini, says: ‘‘Hundreds of Bangladeshi refugees have been repatriated back to Bangladesh in the last four days. Others are in a camp waiting their turn to go back home to their home country. The Tunisian government – in cooperation with domestic and international organisations and also Arab countries – is preparing to welcome a wave of refugees. The question is whether these preparations will be enough. That will remain unanswered until it becomes clear what is happening on the other side of the border.’‘

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