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Brussels, 4 March 2011

Statement by Kristalina Georgieva, Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response on the humanitarian situation in Tunisia and Libya, following her trip to the region

"After my visit to the Tunisian side of the border with Libya, I am deeply concerned but determined that we will find a solution to this humanitarian emergency. There is a massive number of people who have fled to Tunisia from the ongoing violence in Libya. As they try to reach their home countries, the Tunisian people and authorities are showing impressive hospitality and kindness to their distraught guests. Together with the humanitarian organisations present on the ground, Tunisians have begun a quick response to assist those in need of help. For that, I commend the people of Tunisia.

The European Commission is at the forefront of assistance in this quickly evolving situation. We have committed 30 million EUR in aid which is providing food, blankets, tents and medicines for those who come from Libya. On the highest humanitarian priority in Tunisia - evacuation of third country nationals to their home countries - we are also among the most active. The Commission has launched a humanitarian air and sea bridge. We have deployed a civil protection team to the Tunisia-Libya border, which helps the International Organisation for Migration, the UN High Commissioner for Refugeees and the Tunisian authorities to organise the transport and other logistics for the safe return of foreigners to their home countries. A growing number of European boats and aeroplanes are participating in the repatriation of third country nations (mostly Egyptians) to their places of origin.

Meanwhile, I am increasingly worried about the humanitarian situation on the Libyan side of the border. Information about the developments there is scarce, the number of those trying to cross is unknown, and their needs could be substantial. Restricted humanitarian access is putting even more people at risk and is prolonging suffering.

I call on the Libyan authorities and on those who control parts of Libya to allow humanitarian workers in the country and to facilitate their access to those who need our help. The humanitarian community must be able to provide aid without deterrent and threat, in line with the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality. The European Commission is ready to help meet humanitarian needs in Libya too - we are on stand-by with contingency stocks of supplies and financial aid.

We will continue to address the evolving humanitarian situation in the region, as we have been since the beginning of this crisis, in the context of the overall response of the European Union."

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