Libyan refugee rescues under way


Prime Minister David Cameron has launched a an airlift to help Egyptians stranded on the Libyan-Tunisian border

Britain, France and the group of 57 Islamic nations have each launched operations to rescue Libyan refugees.

The moves came as UN experts warned of an urgent need to prevent racially charged violent clashes among a crush of people fleeing Libya to Tunisia and Egypt.

With more than 140,000 refugees pouring over the borders and tens of thousands more arriving by the day, Prime Minister David Cameron said he had launched an airlift to help Egyptians stranded on the Libyan-Tunisian border.

France, too, announced an airlift and naval operation. The French Foreign Ministry said it would involve large airliners and a French Navy ship heading to the region to evacuate at least 5,000 Egyptian refugees and return them to Egypt within a week. France is also “studying means to provide tents and emergency equipment to vulnerable people” who remain in Libya, it said.

The 57-nation Organisation of The Islamic Conference said it would set up two fully equipped field hospitals and provide ambulances on the Tunisian and Egyptian sides of their borders with Libya

UN experts warned of an urgent need to protect sub-Saharan Africans, foreigners, migrant workers and other minorities caught up in the fast-developing humanitarian crisis.

The UN committee responsible for monitoring racial discrimination worldwide said the UN and its member governments must act to prevent further bloodshed.

The UN’s refugee agency and the International Organisation for Migration also said they were joining forces in an effort to ease a humanitarian crisis at the Libya-Tunisian border, where the overcrowding “worsens by the hour.”

More than 75,000 people have crossed that border since February 19, officials said, most of them Egyptians.

“Most have been travelling for three or four days. They are walking and have had nothing to eat for up to 48 hours,” said a World Food Programme spokeswoman.

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