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UNHCR evacuates 132 refugees from Libya to Niger

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UN Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday said that 132 refugees had been evacuated from Libya to Niger on Thursday.

   “In the latest evacuation yesterday, 132 refugees and asylum-seekers, including women and children, were flown from Tripoli to Niger. In Niger, they will be hosted at a UNHCR Emergency Transit Mechanism while longer-term solutions in third countries are sought for them,” UNHCR said in a statement on Friday.

   “Refugees in Libya are faced with a nightmarish scenario. They have fled their homes in search of safety and protection only to end up incarcerated, languishing indefinitely in squalid conditions,” said Roberto Mignone, UNHCR’s chief of mission in Libya.

   Nearly 2500 refugees have been evacuated since UNHCR began evacuations of refugees and asylum seekers from detention centers in Libya to Niger, Italy and Romania last year, the UN agency said.

   “Despite significant security challenges and restrictions on movement to complete these evacuations, UNHCR has undertaken 23 of evacuations from Libya since November 2017,” the statement said.

   Libya has become a preferred departure point for illegal immigrants hoping to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe because of insecurity and chaos in the North African country following the 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

   Shelters in Libya are crowded with thousands of illegal immigrants rescued at sea or arrested by the Libyan security services.

   During a visit to Libya in June, UNHCR commissioner Filippo Grandi said international pledges to resettle 25,000 illegal immigrants from Libya were moving slowly.

   “We have received international commitments on the issue of resettling 25,000 refugees from Libya. Unfortunately, these commitments are not going well, but slowly,” said Grandi at a press conference in the capital Tripoli after visiting several refugee shelters and camps. 

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