The good news comes amid reports that Libyan troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi are rounding up black African migrants to force them to fight opposition forces. Western news agencies are quoting young African men who managed to flee to Tunisia.
They said they were raided in their homes by soldiers, beaten and robbed of their savings and identity papers, then detained and finally offered money to take up arms for Gaddafi. Those who refused were told they would never leave, said Fergo Fevomoye, a 23-year-old who crossed the border on Sunday.
"They will give you a gun and train you like a soldier. Then you fight the war of Libya. As I am talking to you now there is many blacks in training who say they are going to fight this war. They have prized (paid) them with lots of money," he told Reuters.
There are more than 20,000 migrants still stranded in Tunisia and Egypt, awaiting evacuation assistance with an average of 6,000 still arriving at the two borders alone on a daily basis.
According to relief officials there are few countries in the region that are not represented within the steady stream of those fleeing: although the majority of those being evacuated today are Bangladeshis -who still represent the largest group of migrants stranded at both the Egyptian and Tunisian borders - 349 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Malians, Mauritanians, Guineans, Nigeriens, Senegalese, Togolese, Sierra Leonian, Beninese and Cameroonians, are also on flights home.
In the past three weeks, more than 252,000 people have crossed into Tunisia, Egypt, Niger and Algeria.
"Although the numbers of Africans fleeing to the borders still remain comparatively small, they are mounting. This is an encouraging sign given our strong concerns over the targeting of Sub-Saharan Africans inside Libya," says Mohamed Abdiker, Director of Operations for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The UN agency is today evacuating 1,052 Bangladeshi, Sub-Saharan Africans and Filipino migrants from Tunisia, Egypt and Malta. Among the 1,713 migrants evacuated by IOM on Wednesday were a group of 295 Ghanaians as well as a Sudanese.
As the UN and other agencies work to ensure that all the migrants stranded are helped as quickly as possible with particular focus having been given to first the Egyptians and then the Bangladeshis, with large numbers of the latter still awaiting assistance, charter and commercial flights are being used simultaneously to assist African migrants home as fast as possible.
Donor governments include the British, Belgian, French, Italian, Austrians, Irish, Swiss, Swedish and the US as well as UNHCR, IOM will have helped nearly 21,000 migrants from many countries to return safely home to their countries by today. Recent efforts have focused on securing support for long-haul charter flights to enable the return home of thousands of Bangladeshis in particular.
- HUMNEWS staff, UN