GENEVA, (AFP) — The UN refugee agency said Friday that heavily armed pro-regime forces were now manning the Libyan side of the border with Tunisia, and fewer than 2,000 people fled across on Thursday.
“On previous days, between 10,000 and 15,000 fled everyday into Tunisia, yesterday less than 2,000 made it across the border,” said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman of the High Commissioner for Refugees.
“UNHCR is very concerned that the security situation in Libya may be preventing people crossing the border.
“The border on the Libyan side of the border is now manned by heavily armed pro-government forces,” she added.
Those that did manage to cross the border told the UNHCR that “their mobile phones had been confiscated en route, along with cameras.”
“Many of those who have crossed the border appear to be frightened and are unwilling to speak,” said Fleming.
The current border arrangements appeared to be slowing the outflow from Libya into Tunisia.
However, “if military control of the border and roads reduces, we anticipate that a huge exodus of people could resume,” said Fleming.
Meanwhile, with the help of the international community, aid agencies have been able to ease congestion at the Tunisian side of the frontier.
“Thanks to a rapid response from the international community, significant progress has been made with the evacuation of Egyptians and other nationalities from Tunisia,” said Fleming.
Nevertheless, another 12,500 people still need evacuation, said the spokeswoman.
“Over 10,000 are from Bangladesh,” she said, adding that two flights are planned for Bangladesh on Friday.