UK prepares Libyan airlift operation

By Hannah Brenton

The British government is to airlift refugees from the crisis-hit Tunisian border, the prime minister announced today.

During prime minister’s questions, David Cameron told assembled MPs that there were “serious indications of a growing humanitarian crisis” on the Tunisian-Libyan border.

Around 85,000 people have been stranded on the border in makeshift camps, with many sleeping rough in the open air.

The government will provide three charter flights on rotation to airlift Egyptian refugees back to their home country, with the first two planes set to depart from the UK today.

The plans are a response to a request by the United Nations for international help to combat the emerging crisis as refugees flee the violence now gripping Libya.

Andrew Mitchell, international development secretary, said “urgent assistance” was needed to prevent the situation on the border from deteriorating further.

“We are deeply concerned that the large number of migrant workers fleeing Libya lack even basic shelter and face a shortage of food and clean water,” he said.

“We must act now to stop the situation deteriorating. Our evacuation flights are vital if we are to stop this humanitarian emergency from becoming a crisis.”

Mr Mitchell called on other countries to take a similar stance.

“We call on others from the international community to follow our lead and help get these people out of the desperate situation they are in and home to their families,” he added.

The Department for International Development has also flown 36,000 blankets and tents for 1,500 people in Tunisia.