UNHCR evacuates about 260 refugees from Libya

North Africa

Hundreds of refugees from various African countries are fleeing their countries and using Libya as a transit point into Europe. Recently the UNHCR released over 260 refugees from the detention centres to be taken to Niger. In the meantime, the agency intends to find them permanent homes.

After being held in a detention centre in Libya, the UN High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) has evacuated over 260 refugees via the Libyan Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli. The evacuated refugees have been taken to the Niamey airport in Niger and then taken to a UNHCR emergency transit camp, where they will wait to be relocated by the agency into a permanent residence.

The refugees expressed happiness with their relocation after being detained in Libya for over a year with their families, many of whom are children.

“I want my daughter to study in a good school and not to lose her childhood in detention. She is happy she’s getting out”, said one of the refugees.

The relocation programme that the UNHCR is implementing represents an alternative to asylum seekers who have been arrested in Libya.

Since the start of the migrant refugee crisis in Libya around 2015, over 2,082 people have been evacuated from the country on the programme.

The crisis which began after the Libyan conflict saw thousands of African asylum seekers taking advantage of the situation to travel into Europe seeking better lives away from poverty, diseases and civil wars.

In 2015, the city of Sibrata in northeast Libya became notorious as a hub for migrant smuggling into Europe. However, since the situation in Libya began stabilising, the migrant crisis declined with many unable to go through the North African due to the risk of being arrested and detained by the Libyan authorities.

According to some estimates over 1 million refugees tried to enter Europe in 2015 alone, with a fifth of them drowning or disappearing while crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

The migrant crisis affected Libya immensely with some official estimates claiming that over 700,000 people from Niger, Chad, Sudan, and other African countries are using the country as a transit hub, only to be detained, or even enslaved by various militias.

With the situation in Libya steadily improving, observers hope this will reduce the migration crisis which has strained Libya and other European nations.

International organisations like UNHCR, with the aid of other international organisations, must be able to aid migrants fleeing their countries due to economic reasons and conflict, and to stabilise and begin rebuilding their lives.