Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Algerians flee Libya

According to Algerian government sources, nearly 8,000 Algerian were living in Libya. Since 20th February, at least 4,000 Algerians, probably more, have returned home, the vast majority on Air Algérie flights. Some 1,400 people were reported as having crossed back into Algeria at the Debdeb border crossing, just south of Tunisia.

This number could, in fact, be much higher and include nationalities other than just Algerians. The Debdeb area has been turned into something of a temporary crisis zone, with assistance being provided by the Algerian army, gendarmerie, Civil Protection Force, Algerian Red Crescent, and the medical service of Sonatrach.

The latest figure, released by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on 11th March, was that 5,400 people had fled from Libya into Algeria. This figure includes both Algerians and non-Algerians. The United Nations puts the total number of people who have fled since mid-February as over 250,000.

On 26th February, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ordered the despatch from Algiers of a large ferry, the Tassili II, to collect Algerians from Tripoli and Benghazi. The ship took with it a delegation from the Foreign Ministry, a medical team, police officers, and journalists. It returned to Algiers carrying 1,300 people including American, Moroccan, and Tunisian nationals as well as Algerians.

Sonatrach announced that it had repatriated all its employees working in Libya. It said that it had 80 employees working with SIPEX, whose Libyan operations cover two exploration blocks in the Ghadames basin, close to the Algerian border. Although Sonatrach said that there had been no damage to any of its facilities, there have been reports that its bases in Libya have been subjected to substantial looting.

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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