Migrants leaving for Niger on a flight organized by UN migration agency IOM at Misrata airport, Libya, on November 03, 2021 | Photo: Hazem Ahmed/Reuters
Migrants leaving for Niger on a flight organized by UN migration agency IOM at Misrata airport, Libya, on November 03, 2021 | Photo: Hazem Ahmed/Reuters

More than 170 asylum seekers have been evacuated from Libya to Niger with the help of the UNHCR. This marks the first such repatriation flight from the war-torn country in over a year.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement that many of the 172 evacuated individuals "had previously been detained in extremely dire conditions, were victims of trafficking or had experienced violence in Libya." 

Among those taken to Niger were families, unaccompanied minors, and a recently born baby.

Human rights organizations have long been documenting serious cases of abuse in Libya, which since the 2011 ouster of longterm dictator Moammar Gaddafi has become the main point of departure for migrants and refugees coming to Europe from Africa. 

Read more: IOM repatriations from Libya: 'We want migrants to be able to reintegrate in their countries of origin'

Evacuation only available for select few.

In October this year, Libyan authorities had lifted a blanket ban on evacuation flights from the country which had been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, other such flights have also brought out another 91 Nigeriens as well as 127 Gambian nationals, who were repatriated through the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

So far, a total of 3,361 refugees and asylum seekers have been evacuated from Libya to Niger, the majority of whom have departed from Niger to third countries in due course.

The UNHCR chief in Libya, Jean-Paul Cavalieri, meanwhile stressed that considering the limited number of places on evacuation flights, these can currently "only be a solution for extremely vulnerable people, in urgent need of security and protection."

Read more: Voluntary return from Libya: How does it work?

According to official numbers provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in September, there are nearly 600,000 migrants stuck in Libya, with only about 1 in 15 being registered as refugees and asylum-seekers in the war-torn country.

With AFP, UNHCR

 

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