The first flight of 2022 to evacuate vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers from Libya arrived in Rome this week. They are mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
A group of 99 refugees was evacuated from Libya and taken to Italy with a humanitarian flight on Monday night (February 28). This was the first evacuation of its kind to Italy this year, according to a press statement by the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
The flight was organized by the UN agency in collaboration with the Italian ministries of interior and foreign affairs and the national institute for migration and poverty (Inmp).
The people evacuated are reportedly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The UNHCR said that many of them had spent long periods of deprivation and need urgent care.
The refugees will spend 10 days in quarantine due to anti-COVID-19 protocols and will then be transferred to facilities of the SAI hosting system across Italy, according to UNHCR.
UNHCR, Italian officials praise refugees' evacuation
The head of the interior ministry's immigration department, Francesca Ferrandino, said that the arrival of the refugees "confirms the joint commitment of the interior and foreign ministries and UNHCR in building legal pathways to enter Italy for fragile and vulnerable people."
The director general for migration policies of the foreign ministry, Luigi Maria Vignali, said that "it is a great satisfaction to welcome in Italy the first refugees of 2022." He said that his ministry would continue to work on "guaranteeing safe channels of entry to refugees who are in a situation of vulnerability on Libyan soil."
Chiara Cardoletti, UNCHR representative for Italy, praised the Italian authorities for "making today's evacuation possible." She added that "it is necessary to continue to strengthen safe channels like evacuations and resettlement [...] for people who are forced to flee."
Evacuation flights from Libya to Italy, which were suspended for over two years, have brought over 1,100 refugees to safety since 2017, UNHCR said in its press statement.
Italy's collaboration with Libyan coast guard
While Italy has allowed refugees to be evacuated from Libya through UNHCR resettlements and humanitarian corridors run by private NGOs, the country and the European Union have also been repeatedly criticized for their cooperation with the Libyan coast guard.
Last month, Amnesty International accused Italy and the EU of being complicit in returning more than 82,000 people to Libya where they face "hellish" conditions and are "trapped in unimaginable horrors. Many foreigners in Libya face violent abuse, arbitrary detention and blackmail.