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EU trebles aid for Libya refugees

The European Commission has more than trebled its emergency humanitarian aid for refugees fleeing Libya to nearly £8.5 million.

The move follows United Nations calls for an international response to the emerging crisis on the Tunisian border as hundreds of thousands attempt to flee.

After talks with fellow EU Commissioners in Brussels, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced an immediate hike in the £2.5 million humanitarian aid announced last week to provide food and shelter for those stranded at borders amid continuing chaos in Libya.

A total of £21 million is also available from EU funds designed to help process asylum seekers and boost border checks at EU frontiers such as the Italian island of Lampedusa, entry point for refugees from Tunisia and Libya.

"The completely unacceptable actions of the Libyan regime over the last weeks have made it painfully clear that Gaddafi is part of the problem not part of the solution. The situation we are seeing in Libya is simply outrageous and we cannot accept it.

"It is time for him to go and give the country back to the people."

He went on: "I want to say to young Arabs who are now fighting for freedom and democracy: we are on your side. They are on a bold transformational journey towards freedom, democracy and a better life."

Mr Barroso said the EU would help those seeking change in the south Mediterranean region to build "real" democracies.

But he emphasised: "They will follow their own road, make their own choices. It is not up to us to tell them what to do, but the EU will support them on their journey to democracy and a better future."

EU leaders will discuss the situation at a summit on March 11, and Mr Barroso commented: "Europe will rise to this challenge and support the transformational process (in the region). The Commission has the economic and political tools, which are already being applied and which will be strengthened in run up to the summit."


From Belfast Telegraph