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Fleeing Egyptians flown back home

Some 3,135 Egyptians fleeing turmoil in Libya have now been flown home to Cairo by a UK airlift operation.

Britain hopes to be able to ferry 6,000 people to Egypt from the camps which have sprung up on the Libyan/Tunisian border, in a three-day operation using three chartered passenger planes.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, who is in Tunisia, said that Britain was also sending two logistics experts to help relieve pressure at the small airport of Djerba, which has become the hub for incoming humanitarian supplies as well as floods of people trying to get out of the country.

International Organisation for Migration officials said almost 200,000 people have crossed Libya's borders with Egypt, Tunisia and Niger since the uprising against dictator Muammar Gaddafi began, many of them migrant workers trying to get home.

Around 80,000 are thought to have entered Tunisia, with large numbers still stuck on the Libyan side of the border.

Speaking during a visit to the Ras Ajdir transit camp, Mr Mitchell said that the impromptu reception centres set up by the Tunisian authorities were "extremely well run", providing mobile hospital facilities and at least one hot meal a day. Local people were also bringing food and water in cars and trucks.

However, he said that conditions at the border itself were "much more chaotic" because of the flow of around 2,000 people coming through each day - down from 10,000 a few days ago.

Britain sent 36,000 blankets and 300 tents from a depot in Dubai earlier this week, and a second flight was set to deliver 2,000 blankets and 1,100 tents to provide shelter for 5,500 people in Tunisia.

Meanwhile, the number of people crossing the Libyan border with Tunisia has dropped because it is now being manned by heavily armed forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, officials have confirmed.

Red Cross officials also said two Libyan Red Crescent ambulances were shot at in Misrata, west of Benghazi, and two volunteers were injured. One ambulance was burnt out.

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