Hundreds of Ethnic Berbers Forced to Flee Fighting in Western Libya – UN Agency

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–12 April 2011 – More than 500 ethnic Berbers fleeing conflict in western Libya have reached neighbouring Tunisia, the United Nations refugee agency reported today as it steps up support for the new arrivals.

The Berbers who have arrived in the Dehiba area of southern Tunisia have limited resources and “significant humanitarian needs,” said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The agency has set up a tent camp at a sports field in the town of Remada and electricity, water and other basic services are also being established.

Mr. Mahecic said UNHCR was working with the Tunisian Red Crescent and a local humanitarian partner Al Taáwon to provide further relief materials to the refugees.

“The local community in Tunisia has offered considerable assistance, opening homes to hundreds of Libyan families,” he said. “Youth hostels in Dehiba and Tataouine further west are also being used to shelter families. A school near the camp in Remada has offered to enroll Libyan students.”

The Berbers are part of a much bigger wave of people who have fled the conflict between Government forces and the opposition in Libya, with large numbers also crossing from the country’s east into Egypt.

Many others have fled Libya by sea to Italy or Malta, with at least 1,100 people arriving in Malta alone since 26 March. This morning the European nation’s armed forces rescued a boat carrying 116 people.

Almost 500,000 people are confirmed to have left Libya since the fighting erupted, including many foreign nationals. An unconfirmed number of people are also internally displaced.

The fighting in Libya follows pro-democracy protests in that country and other nations across North Africa and the Middle East this year. Long-standing governments in Tunisia and Egypt have fallen.