UN airlifts 163 refugees to Niger from war-torn Libya

UN airlifts 163 refugees to Niger from war-torn Libya

Photo: AFP

The United Nations refugee agency on Friday evacuated some 163 refugees from Libya's capital to Niger in the first such flight since fighting escalated in Tripoli two weeks ago.

All the evacuees, including dozens of women and children, were previously detained in Libya. Among them, were many people whom Unhcr had recently relocated from the Abu Selim and Ain Zara detention centers – both close to the current war zone in southern Tripoli.

“Given the situation in Libya, humanitarian evacuations are a life-line for detained refugees whose lives are in jeopardy in Libya,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

“Niger’s solidarity in receiving these refugees is world-leading and exemplary, but Niger cannot do this alone. There must be shared responsibility and we need other countries to come forward to lend a hand and help bring vulnerable refugees out of Libya to safety,” he said.

The UN-backed government in Tripoli's interior ministry and authorities in Niger helped Unhcr organise the flights, the agency said, adding that it remained "extremely concerned for the safety of over 3,000 refugees and migrants trapped inside detention centres and exposed to violence.

After their release from detention and they left Libya for Niger, the evacuated refugees were sheltered Unhcr’s Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in the centre of Tripoli.

Unhcr said it hoped resettlement states would ensure quick departures of refugees accepted for resettlement from Niger in order to free up space for new evacuees from Tripoli.

Unhcr has transferred some 539 refugees to its GDF from several detention centres near the conflict zone in the past ten days. These included 179 people from the Abu Selim detention centre on Wednesday amid heavy clashes in the area, the agency said.