Since November 2017, the UN refugee agency UNHCR has evacuated 2,476 refugees and asylum seekers from Libyan detention centers, the organization said in a statement. The refugees and asylum seekers were flown out to Niger (2,069), Italy (312) and Romania (95), it said. UNHCR called for a growing number of countries to offer additional resettlement places for the many refugees who have remained in Libya and who need to be urgently evacuated.
'Libya is not a safe country'
Those evacuated include single mothers, families, people with medical conditions and more than 300 unaccompanied and separated children. The majority of people, the agency stressed, were detained after being intercepted or rescued at sea while they were trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe. ''In light of the dangers for refugees and migrants in Libya, UNHCR does not consider it to be a safe place for disembarkation and also has advised against returns to Libya following search and rescues at sea'', the organization noted.
Refugees in Libya 'in nightmarish scenario'
''Refugees in Libya are faced with a nightmarish scenario'', said Roberto Mignone, UNHCR's Chief of Mission in Libya. ''They have fled their homes in search of safety and protection only to end up incarcerated, languishing indefinitely in squalid conditions."
"It is reprehensible that they are detained instead of protected'', he continued. ''This is despite the fact that viable alternatives to detention within Libya can be found, including through a Gathering and Departure Facility that we have been waiting to open since July, which could offer immediate protection and safety for those most vulnerable''.
Once opened, the Gathering and Departure Facility would be the first of its kind in the country, sheltering vulnerable refugees until they can leave Libya, the UN agency said. Though the facility is ready for use, UNHCR is still in talks with Libyan authorities over its opening. Considering the difficult circumstances faced by refugees and asylum seekers stranded in Libya, UNHCR said it continues to advocate for alternatives to detention and for more support for evacuations, "which remain a crucial lifeline for the most vulnerable."