TRIPOLI/NIAMEY – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, has evacuated some 163 refugees from Libya to Niger in the first such flight since fighting escalated in the Libyan capital two weeks ago. The flight landed early on Friday.
UNHCR has worked with the Libyan Ministry of Interior and authorities in Niger to make this possible.
All evacuees, including dozens of women and children, were previously detained in Libya. Among them, were many people who UNHCR had recently relocated from the Abu Selim and Ain Zara detention centers – both locations were close to conflict frontlines.
Mr. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said UNHCR remains extremely concerned for the safety of refugees and migrants who are trapped inside detention centers and exposed to violence.
“Given the situation in Libya, humanitarian evacuations are a life-line for detained refugees whose lives are in jeopardy in Libya,” said Mr. Grandi.
“Niger’s solidarity in receiving these refugees is world-leading and exemplary, but Niger cannot do this alone. There must be shared responsibility and we need other countries to come forward to lend a hand and help bring vulnerable refugees out of Libya to safety,” he added.
Mr. Grandi urges resettlement states to ensure quick departures of refugees accepted for resettlement from Niger in order to free up space for new evacuees from Tripoli.
After their release from detention and before leaving Libya, the evacuated refugees were sheltered at UNHCR’s Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in the center of Tripoli until the transfer to Niger was secured.
UNHCR has worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable through relocations from detention to the gathering facility.
In the past ten days, it has been able to transfer some 539 refugees from several detention centers near the immediate conflict zones – including 179 from the Abu Selim detention center, south of Tripoli, on Wednesday, April 17 amid heavy clashes in the area.
More than 3,000 refugees and migrants remain trapped in detention close to the fighting range, including those in Qasr Bin Ghasheer, Al Sabaa and Tajoura detention centers.
UNHCR is also calling on the international community to provide solutions for all trapped and detained refugees in Libya, including evacuations and humanitarian corridors, to allow refugees in the Gathering and Departure Facility to find safety abroad and also to open new spaces at the facility, which has limited capacity.