Libya: 1,334 vulnerable refugees evacuated by UNHCR

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has evacuated 1,334 refugees from Libya to third countries and hopes to bring the total to around “8,000” this year, its representative in Libya, Roberto Mignone, said Wednesday.

“To date, we have evacuated 1,334 vulnerable refugees from Libya”, including “1,020 in Niger” and “312 in Italy”, he said during a round table in Paris organized by the French Institute of Relations international.

This total is only a fraction of the 48,000 refugees registered in Libya, but UNHCR hopes to evacuate “between 5,000 and 10,000 refugees this year,” added the head of mission, adding that “we will probably arrive at 8,000 total.

To this end, UNHCR is counting on the “transit center” it is setting up in Tripoli, with a capacity of 1,000 people, of which “part” will be ready “within two months”.

Designed as an “alternative” to detention centers, this center will accelerate evacuations: “The plan is to have six evacuations per month with a plane of 135 seats”, or “810 people not months, if in Niger people can go out “to go to host countries.

But that’s where the rub is. “The government of Niger informed us last week that it was suspending the evacuations” because “there are not enough departures from Niger as part of the resettlement,” said Vincent Cochetel, special envoy of the UNHCR for the situation in the central Mediterranean, at a press conference in Geneva.

Resettlement is for a country to go directly to the refugee camp to interview the refugees it is going to host, on a list pre-established by UNHCR.

“Currently, we do not have a solution. We can not evacuate anyone to Niger, “added Mr. Cochetel, refusing to” overwhelm “Niamey for this” temporary suspension decision “.

“We are very grateful to the Nigerian authorities for being the only country in the world to offer us this transit solution,” he said.

The relocations of these “exfiltrates” Libya ceiling for the moment less than 30, arrived in France in December.

“Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world” and “Europeans must do their part too. If the process is too long, the transit center in Niger will be blocked, “warned Mr. Mignone.

This is why it also takes effort in terms of engagement in host countries. “For the moment, they have offered 17,000 seats,” out of the 40,000 requested by UNHCR for refugees from 15 countries in the region, “but they will have to be increased,” Mignone said.

“It’s a win-win system for everyone except the traffickers. It’s good for Libya, for refugees who can be resettled, for Italy because there will be a division between European countries, “he said.

In addition, “we need other centers in other African countries” and for that “we are negotiating with countries of the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa,” said Mignone, referring to “Burkina-Faso”. Faso, Chad, Morocco … ”

French Interior Ministers Gérard Collomb and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit Niger next week to discuss migration and the fight against trafficking networks.

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