Published: September 13, 2019
ROME - UNHCR said Friday that it evacuated 98 refugees out of Libya to Italy, in its third humanitarian evacuation to Italy so far this year. "With Libya continuing to suffer under conflict, such evacuations are a lifeline for the most vulnerable refugees living in detention centres and urban areas, who are in dire need of safety and protection," UNHCR said in a statement.
The refugees are from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, and include 52 unaccompanied children. The youngest is Yousef, a seven-month-old baby from Somalia, born in detention and traveling with his parents. Many of the refugees had been held in detention in Libya for long periods, some for more than eight months.
With this operation, the number of vulnerable refugees assisted by UNHCR and evacuated from Libya in 2019 reached 1,474; including 710 to Niger, 393 to Italy, and 371 resettled in other countries in Europe and Canada.
"Today we have taken 98 people to safety, but this is still only a small number of the thousands who need such help," said Jean-Paul Cavalieri, UNHCR Chief of Mission for Libya. "There are still some 3,600 refugees in detention centres. We urgently need to find solutions for them, as well as thousands more vulnerable refugees living in urban areas," Cavalieri said.
UNHCR said it is grateful for the cooperation of the Libyan Interior Ministry and the support of its partner LibAid in assistance with securing the refugees' release and transfer out of the detention centres.
"Today's evacuation is an example of solidarity, and we thank the Italian authorities for making this possible," said Roland Schilling, UNHCR Regional Representative for Southern Europe. "We hope that other countries will heed this example and provide similar, life-saving humanitarian evacuations," Schilling said.
Prior to the evacuation, UNHCR secured the refugees' release from detention and transferred them to its Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in Tripoli, where they were provided with food, shelter, medical assistance including psycho-social support, as well as clothes and hygiene kits. source