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Britain, France Help Egyptians Flee Libya

Egyptian migrant workers lie under blankets in a makeshift open-air camp at Tripoli International Airport in Libya, March 1, 2011

Britain and France have launched efforts to help evacuate thousands of Egyptians from Libya.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday that he is sending aircraft to rescue Egyptians who are stranded on the Libya-Tunisia border.

France says it is sending military planes and ships to help about 5,000 Egyptian refugees return home.

Canadian officials say a frigate – the HMCS Charlottetown – will depart Wednesday for Mediterranean waters to participate in international efforts to evacuate foreigners and provide humanitarian relief.

In Brussels, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso announced Wednesday that the EU will triple its aid for refugees from Libya's turmoil to about $13.8 million.

On Tuesday, the United Nations refugee agency said violence in Libya had triggered an exodus of more than 140,000 people to neighboring Tunisia and Egypt in the past 10 days, with the situation on the Tunisian border reaching a "crisis" point.

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said Tuesday about 75,000 people have fled from Libya into Tunisia, a majority of them Egyptians. She said the U.N. agency is setting up tents at the Tunisian border to shelter 12,000 people and plans to send in tents and supplies for another 10,000 people on Thursday.

The UNHCR said almost 70,000 people have crossed from Libya into Egypt since February 19.

Aid agencies say tens of thousands of other foreign migrants are stranded in Libya, unable to leave. They say most of the migrants are from poor Asian and African nations whose governments have been unable or unwilling to rescue them.

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