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Evacuating Foreigners from Libya is International Priority


Egyptians sit next to their belongings as they wait for transportation near the Libyan and Tunisian border crossing of Ras Jdir after fleeing unrest in Libya, February 28, 2011

Egyptians sit next to their belongings as they wait for transportation near the Libyan and Tunisian border crossing of Ras Jdir after fleeing unrest in Libya, February 28, 2011

International efforts are underway to help thousands of foreigners evacuate from Libya and provide humanitarian aid to those who have sought refuge along the country's borders.

U.S. President Barack Obama says he has approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help evacuate Egyptians who have fled to the Libyan-Tunisian border. He also said Thursday that U.S. relief organizations are sending humanitarian teams to the border region.

The International Organization for Migration announced Thursday that it had begun its first evacuations of foreigners in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city. The group said it is giving priority to about 200 "vulnerable" foreigners -- mostly women, children and people with special medical needs. The group said it has identified about 5,500 potential evacuees, mostly from Bangladesh, India and Sudan.

The French News Agency (AFP)) says the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) announced plans Thursday to double the capacity of a camp at Tunisia's border with Libya so that it can accommodate 20,000 refugees. The news agency quotes UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards as saying at least 8,000 foreigners crossed into Tunisia on Wednesday, mostly Bangladeshis.

India has dispatched two of its warships on a mission to evacuate citizens. The Economic Times says the ships will remain in the region until all of the 18,000 Indian nationals who were in Libya are evacuated.

Spain said Thursday it is sending a plane to help evacuate Egyptian refugees who are at the Libyan-Tunisian border. A Foreign Ministry statement said the plane will also deliver humanitarian aid to the region.

A South Korean warship has picked up more than 30 Koreans and is on its way to Malta.

Also, Germany said it is sending three navy ships to move out about 4,000 foreigners who are at the Libyan-Tunisian border. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Thursday the majority of the evacuees are Egyptians.

Meanwhile, Dutch officials said "intensive" negotiations are underway with Libya to free three Dutch marines who were captured, Sunday, while taking part in evacuation efforts.

On Wednesday, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso announced that the EU will triple its aid for refugees from Libya's turmoil to about $13.8 million. U.S. Ambassador Betty King said the United States is giving $12 million to help with evacuations.

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