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Tunisians opened their homes and hearts to people fleeing Libya

The outpouring of generosity came spontaneously – people simply responded with compassion, a new report says.

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“Even seasoned aid officials said they had never witnessed such a reception by a host country during a refugee crisis,” Hoffman says.

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Although the UNHCR referred to these arrangements as ‘rentals’, money rarely changed hands, she adds.

In a separate article, UNHCR staff say when Tunisian families were offered financial help with water, gas, and electricity bills, many took offense, saying they did not expect compensation.

The UNHCR subsequently arranged a contract with Tunisian utility companies to provide subsidies directly.

The UNHCR staff in Tunisia highlight other acts of kindness.

One doctor traveled hundreds of kilometres to offer his services. When he learned the Tunisian Red Crescent did not take new volunteers in the middle of a crisis he made a donation and then started picking up the rubbish left by all the people passing through.

There is also the story of a cook who arrived at Shousha transit camp with bread and rice. He only planned to spend one day, but was so moved by the sight of so many traumatized and hungry people that he returned the next day with friends. They put up a tent and started cooking with supplies provided by locals.

After two weeks the Red Cross began funding them, and from there the camp’s main kitchen was born, providing up to 28,000 meals a day.

This outpouring of generosity came without high-level orchestration – people simply responded with compassion, the UNHCR staff write.

Some contributors to FMR contrast the response in Tunisia to the reaction in Europe where the media and politicians fretted about the prospect of a mass influx from North Africa – a prediction that never materialized.

There is criticism of the lack of willingness among EU countries to accept refugees displaced by the violence. Those who fled Libya included many sub-Saharan Africans from countries like Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia who cannot go back home. Many are still in camps.

Other unresolved issues following the revolution include the future of people still displaced in Libya where property confiscations and redistributions during the Gaddafi era have complicated access to housing and land.

FMR also looks at the repercussions for the vast numbers of unemployed migrant workers who have returned to their home countries and the fate of other migrants who are detained inside Libya.

This article originally appeared at AlertNet, the world's humanitarian news site.

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