Geneva, 10 May 2018 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, evacuated 132 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers out of Tripoli and flew them to Niamey, the capital city of Niger, on Thursday. This is the first group of refugees airlifted out of Libya since the UNHCR humanitarian evacuation programme was temporarily halted in early March, following concerns from the government of Niger that onward departures for resettlement in other countries were not keeping up with the pace of arrivals into Niger.
“Refugees in detention in Libya are languishing in extreme conditions that threaten their life and wellbeing,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean Situation. “So this programme is really about saving vulnerable individuals from further harm. The Government of Niger has generously offered additional space for up to 1,500 refugees in the Emergency Transit Mechanism run by UNHCR in Niamey with financial support from the European Union. We now urgently need to find resettlement solutions for these refugees in other countries.”
This was the charter flight’s second attempt to fly refugees and asylum-seekers out of Libya. On Tuesday, the flight had to turn back to Tripoli mid-air, after facing technical difficulties. Refugees and asylum-seekers had to spend an additional night in detention.
Additional evacuations are being planned and will include refugees held in different detention centres in Libya.
Since November, UNHCR, with the support of the European Union and Libyan authorities, has evacuated 1,474 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers, including single mothers, families and unaccompanied and separated children, out of detention in Libya, and relocated them to Niger (1,152), Italy (312) and Romania (10).
In addition, UNHCR has processed 477 cases for resettlement directly from Libya to third countries, and continues to call for additional resettlement places as a secure, life-saving and durable solution for vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers in Libya.
These initiatives are part of a range of measures needed to offer viable alternatives to the dangerous journeys undertaken by refugees and migrants along the Central Mediterranean route.