Tunisia has warned that it may close its border with Libya amid fears that an influx of refugees will destabilise the country ahead of key elections.

“Our country’s economic situation is precarious, and we cannot cope with hundreds of thousands of refugees,” said Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi, speaking at a press conference on 30 July.

“Our absolute priority is the security and stability of Tunisia and we will close the border if necessary.”

Fighting in Libya’s capital and second city has seen more than 150 killed and has led to thousands of people fleeing the country. Over the past week, the US, the UK, Germany, Canada and France have all evacuated diplomatic staff amid intensifying clashes between rival militias.

Tunisia has seen a daily influx of between 5,000 and 6,000 refugees over recent days, according to Hamdi. The minister said he had asked the UN to supply extra manpower to help deal with the influx and said that Egyptian and Jordanian migrant workers fleeing the fighting via Tunisia should be provided plane tickets out of the country.

Tunisia is preparing for elections in October and November that many hope will see the nation make the transition to a stable democracy.