United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi on Friday welcomed an accord this week between the African Union and Rwanda to airlift vulnerable refugees out of Libya and called on other countries to follow suit.
“Rwanda, and Niger - where a centre for evacuated refugees from Libya has been operating for almost two years, helping us to secure solutions, including resettlement, for several thousand vulnerable people - are quietly demonstrating real responsibility sharing through the actions they are taking to protect people in great need," Grandi said in a statement.
"They offer hope to refugees, and should be an inspiration to us all."
Many refugees and asylum-seekers caught up in the escalating conflict inside Libya and who are enduring appalling conditions in detention need to be offered hope and a concrete end to their plight, Grandi said.
"We urgently need other countries to step forward too, help in getting people out of harm’s way and offer solutions,” he said.
More than 3,600 refugees and asylum seekers are currently held in Libyan detention centres, many of whom are at risk of serious abuse and in peril from "indiscriminate" warfare, Grandi said.
In early July more than 50 refugees and migrants were killed in an airstrike on the Tajoura detention centre, east of Libya’s capital Tripoli, the statement recalled, describing conditions in Libya's detention facilities as dire. The UN has said the air raids may be a war crime.
Grandi paid tribute to the 16 countries who have stepped up with offers of resettlement. But he stressed the need for the international community to provide 'humanitarian corridors' for refugees to be evacuated from Libya and to make the protection of the human rights of refugees and migrants a key element of its engagement in Libya.
Refugees and migrants in detention in Libya should be freed in an orderly manner and their protection guaranteed, UNHCR said. Vulnerable refugees and individuals at risk should be evacuated to other countries from where resettlement and other solutions must be found without delay.
The UN agency reiterated its an appeal made earlier this week to countries to donate funds to help implement the accord with Rwanda and the AU to airlift refugees and asylum-seekers out of Libya. The first 500 of these people, who include children and young people at risk, are due to be evacuated in the next few weeks, in cooperation with the Rwandan and Libyan authorities, UNHCR said.
Once they arrive in Rwanda, UNHCR will provide protection services and humanitarian assistance including food, water, accommodation, education and healthcare while working on long-term solutions for the evacuees, it said.