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UNHCR evacuates 172 Libyan asylum-seekers to safety in Niger

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On the evening of 4th November 2021, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, managed to evacuate 172 vulnerable asylum seekers out of Libya to Niger for safety. In more than a year after the Libyan authorities lifted the blanket ban on humanitarian flights, this evacuation flight to Niger was the very first. According to Jean-Paul Cavalieri, UNHCR’s Chief of Mission in Libya, the resumption of these life-saving evacuation flights has brought relief to the agency. However, the evacuation will only help the extremely vulnerable people who are in dire need of protection and security, considering the limited number of places.

Many of the evacuated asylum-seekers had previously experienced detention in extreme conditions, violence, and even human trafficking in Libya. The group that benefitted from the evacuation included families, children who were traveling alone, and a few weeks-old baby. The evacuees stated their relief upon leaving Libya. UNHCR welcomes the intervention of the offices that worked to put an end to the adjournment of the life-saving humanitarian flights. These include the Libyan Presidential Council, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Foreign Ministry.

The evacuation of the asylum-seekers took place through the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) which was established in 2017. This was made possible by the Government of Niger, which generously agreed to temporarily let in on its territory Libyan refugees who face life-threatening situations, to enable UNHCR to work on identifying long-lasting solutions for each one of them. UNHCR Niger offers mental health care support to victims of traumatic events in Libya, as well as access to vocational and educational training opportunities. So far, 3,361 asylum-seekers and refugees have been moved from Libya to Niger. Out of this number, 3,213 have left Niger to resettle and on complementary pathways to third countries.

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