UN resumes airlifts of migrants from Libya to Niger

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The United Nations Refugee agency says it has airlifted 132 vulnerable migrants from Libya to Niger, the first group to be flown out after a two-month halt of the evacuations.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says the group of refuges and asylum-seekers was flown from Tripoli to the Nigerien capital Niamey on Thursday.

UNHCR’s humanitarian evacuation program previously saw the evacuation of about 1,020 refugees and asylum seekers to Niger, but was halted in early March amid concerns from the Nigerien government that migrants were arriving there faster than previous arrivals could be resettled elsewhere.

UNHCR tried to fly out the migrants on Tuesday but the flight had to turn back to Tripoli because of technical problems.

The U.N. has been trying to empty government-controlled detention centers in Libya as part of a stepped-up effort to tackle the smuggling and slavery of migrants.

Late last year and earlier this year, Libya was dogged by reports of human slave trade, with the migrants being held in inhumane detention centres.

Footage emerged on social media showing tied up migrants being beaten brutally and even shot dead.

The revelation first came to light following an expose from the BBC news agency that showed what looked like human slave auction being conducted.

Several hundred refugees have since been resettled directly from Libya, but numbers have been limited because most Western embassies evacuated from Tripoli in 2014.

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