, TUNIS, July 30- Tunisia cannot cope with any massive influx of refugees who might seek to enter the country from strife torn neighbouring Libya and will close its border if necessary, the foreign minister said Wednesday.
“Our country’s economic situation is precarious, and we cannot cope with hundreds of thousands of refugees,” as was the case during the 2011 revolution that ousted Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, Mongi Hamdi told a press conference.
“We will close the border if the national interest requires it,” he added.
Libya has suffered from chronic insecurity since Kadhafi’s ouster, with the new government unable to rein in the militias that helped to overthrow him and facing a growing threat from Islamist groups.
Scores of people have been killed in recent days in fighting for control of the capital’s international airport, knocked out of commission by the violence, and in the restive eastern city of Benghazi.
The capital Tripoli has also been hit by fierce fighting between rival militias since mid July, and a rocket fired in the fighting ignited a fuel depot, which is still blazing.
The violence has led thousands of people to flee the country overland or by sea.
Hamdi did not give a total for the number of people who have entered the country during the latest violence, which erupted two weeks ago. However, he did speak of a daily figure of “5,000 to 6,000 in recent days”.
At the same time, he did say that he had asked the UN to be present “in force to face the influx of refugees” if necessary.
Hamdi also said that Egyptian and Jordanian migrant workers fleeing Libya could only transit through Tunisia. He said the two countries had asked that their nationals seeking to leave should be allowed to transit through Tunisia.
The minister said the migrant workers should “be provided with plane tickets and should be directly transferred to the airports at Djerba and Gabes” in southern Tunisia.