First group of irregular migrants airlifted to Niger by UNHCR from Tripoli since June

As violence rages in Libya’s capital Tripoli, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it has airlifted another 135 irregular migrants to safety in Niger. This is the first evacuation conducted by the agency since the clashes between armed groups intensified in June 2018.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, most of those evacuated have been held in detention camps for several months, often in poor conditions resulting in malnutrition and poor health. These migrants are now held temporarily under its Emergency Transit Programme while a permanent solution is being looked into. Overall, it has now evacuated 1997 people from Libya since the programme began in December 2017.

“These evacuations are a life-changing and life-saving escape for refugees trapped in detention in Libya,” said Roberto Mignone, UNHCR Chief of Mission in Libya. “Refugees and migrants in detention centres often suffer squalid conditions and are at risk of being sold to traffickers and smugglers.”

Many irregular migrants embarking on the journey from sub-saharan Africa to Europe are often intercepted while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea, ending up in Libyan detention centres. Those who manage to return home tell stories of abuse on their journey.

The evacuation effort in Libya is part of a wider emergency humanitarian operation this week. Eighty-five refugees from Syria, Sudan and Eritrea were also flown to Romania this week with assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and will spend a few days at UNHCR’s Emergency Transit Mechanism before flying to Norway.

UNHCR said while they were thankful for countries offering resettlement, there are not enough spots for those who need it. “People are being intercepted off the Libyan coast faster than we can evacuate them,” said Mr. Mignone. “We are deeply grateful for all those who have come forward with resettlement places but the simple truth is we need more evacuations, more often.”

TMP – 20/11/2018

Photo caption: African migrants rescued from drowning by the Libyan Coast Guard

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