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Australian funded mercy ship to evacuate civilians from Libya fighting

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An emergency ship, funded by the Australian Government, is expected today to evacuate around 1000 civilians from the war-torn Libyan city of Misrata.

The "Red Star One", organised by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), is currently moored off Misrata ready to deliver vital aid and to allow civilians, including those injured, to escape the fighting.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the ship will dock in Misrata as soon as the security situation allows.

"The situation in Misrata remains extremely dangerous for civilians as fierce fighting continues between the opposition and Qaddafi forces in urban areas," Mr Rudd said.

"The 'Red Star One' carries 150 tons of food, medical supplies and two ambulances for use in Misrata. The ambulances will be used to transport casualties to Misrata's Ras Touba hospital and from the hospital to the port area for evacuation.

"Australia is also supporting the International Medical Corps which has doctors and nurses on board the vessel to help the evacuees," said Mr Rudd.

The IOM Director of Operations, Mr Mohammed Abdiker, said they were extremely grateful to receive funding for the mission, which constitutes the only escape available to those stranded in Misrata.

"This funding means we can continue the evacuation of desperate stranded migrant workers and wounded civilians to Benghazi for medical care or further assistance to leave the country."

In addition to the work of the IOM, Australian humanitarian assistance to Libya also provides support to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Food Programme for the provision of essential services, food and urgent medical supplies. This includes services through the ICRC's newly established presence in Tripoli.

Australia has provided $25 million to the international humanitarian effort in Libya and is the third largest donor.

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