Launches massive operation to help rescue refugees fleeing Libya
3rd March 2011: Soon after the UN asked Britain to open its doors to refugees, the country launched a massive operation to help rescue refugees fleeing Libya.
As many as two chartered airliners were sent from East Midlands and Stansted airports. Rather, the first two planes left East Midlands and Stansted airports. These flew to
Djerba airport in Tunisia for picking up migrants left high and dry.
Another plane is expected to fly in from Italy and will help evacuate up to 6,000 stranded people. It will be flying in rotation to carry Egyptians to Cairo.
The plans for launching the evacuation flights were announced by Prime Minister David Cameron. He told the House of Commons they would go on doing everything they could to ease the problems at the border and make sure this emergency doesn’t turn into a crisis.
Cameron said the destroyer HMS York, currently in Benghazi in eastern Libya, would also be available.
The majority of the fleeing people are believed to be Egyptian workers. The UN said in Djerba approximately 30,000 people were stranded at the Libyan border.
Estimates suggest more than 180,000 people have fled Libya since the uprising. Out of the total, approximately 77,320 have left for Egypt.
The Department for International Development has already sent 36,000 blankets and tents for 1,500 people to Tunisia.
The UN said the refuges had fled Libya, half of them crossing into Egypt and half into Tunisia. Already, the situation in Tunisia at the verge of reaching a crisis point, as thousands of refugees are in urgent need of food, water and shelter.
A substantial number of refugees were Egyptians working in Libya. They have dispersed to their home towns and villages over the Egyptian border. But on the Tunisian side, the situation was "at crisis point", UNHCR emergency staff said.
Tunisia’s mission chief for the International Organisation for Migration Mark Petzold said thousands of migrants were still awaiting authorisation to enter Tunisia; and there was an urgent need to decongest the border area lacking adequate facilities to host large numbers of people.
To make the matters worse, the fleeing migrant workers have been under attack from opponents of Colonel Gaddafi, after they were mistaken for mercenaries being used by the government to crush the rebellion.