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Aid Group: Sub-Saharan Africans Fleeing Libyan Crisis

Men, who worked in Libya and fled the unrest in the country, wait for buses to be repatriated in a refugee camp at the Tunisia-Libyan border, in Ras Ajdir, Tunisia, March 10, 2011

The International Organization for Migration says the number of sub-Saharan African migrants fleeing the crisis in Libya is growing.

The aid agency said it was set to evacuate nearly 350 African nationals from Libya's neighbors Egypt, Tunisia, and Malta on Thursday. It said the migrants represent 11 different west African countries.

IOM said that 295 Ghanaians and one Sudanese were among more than 1,700 migrants the organization evacuated on Wednesday.

A senior IOM official, Mohamed Abdiker, says the number of Africans trying to escape Libya is small compared with the largest group returning home, Bangladeshis. But he says the African total is mounting.

There are reports that sub-Saharan Africans in Libya have been targeted for attack because of accusations that leader Moammar Gadhafi is using African mercenaries against rebels.

The evacuees escape to neighboring countries before traveling to their home nations. Many African migrants are returning home on charter and commercial flights.

With support from the United States, United Nations, and European countries, IOM has so far helped nearly 21,000 migrants flee the Libyan crisis and return home safely.

More than 250,000 people have crossed into Tunisia, Egypt, Niger and Algeria in recent weeks.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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