Thousands of migrants flee Libya into Tunisia: agency

GENEVA, February 23, 2011 (AFP) – Several thousand foreign migrants from Libya have crossed the Tunisian border in the first major exodus to Tunisia since the Libyan turmoil began, the International Organisation for Migration said on Wednesday.

The UNHCR was locating possible sites for camps in case larger numbers arrive.

Fleeing migrants said they had been stopped at checkpoints on their way where soldiers confiscated mobiles phones, passports and other belongings, Chauzy reported.

The IOM estimated that there were about 1.5 million illegal immigrants in Libya before unrest erupted there on February 15.

Although a significant number come from Egypt, Tunisia, west and east Africa, there are also migrants from Asia, mainly Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Chinese, according to the agency.

“We are looking at all possible options for the evacuations of third countries nationalities from Libya,” said IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya.

“We need money from donors to ease the evacuation of migrants from the poorest countries to Tunisia,” he added. The agency said it was also trying to organise the evacuation of other nationals from poor nations from inside Libya, including many from Asia.

“It’s a fir