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The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released a statement:

The Government has dispatched an emergency shipment of humanitarian supplies to the border between Libya and Tunisia in response to the growing crisis in North Africa.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore announced the decision to transport 18,500 blankets and over 100 tents from Ireland’s pre-positioned stocks in Brindisi in response to the United Nations’ appeal seeking help for those fleeing the ongoing violence.  These relief items will be distributed at the Tunisian border by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through its division, Irish Aid, pre-positions essential humanitarian relief items in a series of depots located close to those regions which are most susceptible to natural or other disasters. The pre-positioning of such stocks forms part of the Rapid Response Initiative established in the aftermath of the 2004 Asia Tsunami.

The Tánaiste also announced €250,000 in funding to help the International Organisation for Migration transport people back to their home countries.

Tánaiste Gilmore said: “Up to 200,000 people have fled Libya in the last two weeks in the face of violence.  Many remain in temporary camps along the border with Tunisia where they urgently require shelter and supplies.  Faced with a humanitarian emergency of such magnitude, we have a duty to do what we can to help”.

The shipment follows similar emergency airlifts from Irish Aid’s pre-positioned stocks at the UN hubs in Brindisi, Dubai and Panama in 2010 in response to the Haiti earthquake, Pakistan floods and other humanitarian crises.

Tánaiste Gilmore added:  “In addition to the situation at Libya’s borders, we are also increasingly concerned about conditions within the country itself and especially over reports that civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence.  These issues and what the EU and the international community can most effectively do to remedy the current appalling violence and repression in Libya will be discussed at the informal EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Budapest, which I will be attending.  Together with our EU partners, we will be insisting on full access for humanitarian agencies so that they can reach those most in need.  We stand ready to review our own humanitarian response in line with the needs identified by the UN on the ground”.