Italy on Monday took in a group of 147 mainly African refugees rescued from the Libyan city of Misrata.
While announcing the rescue, Italy’s interior ministry said the group included 68 minors.
“This evacuation is a vital lifeline for people who faced serious threats and dangers inside Libya,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.
Italy’s populist government in September adopted strict regulations aimed at streamlining the rules for processing asylum requests by tightening the rules for awarding humanitarian protection.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, however, said the arriving refugees were fleeing war.
“Italy’s ports are largely open to the women and children, to young people who are really fleeing war,” he said.
Monday’s arrivals included 69 Eritreans, 62 Somalis, 6 Sudanese, five Ethiopians and five Syrians.
Libya has been a preferred departure point for migrants seeking to reach Europe. The North African country has been dogged by chaos since the 2011 ouster and killing of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Various human smuggling rings have been operating in the country, taking advantage of the governance void created following Gaddafi’s death.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 18,815 migrants have already arrived in Europe so far this year.
UNHCR says thousands of other refugees and migrants are still held in detention centres in Libya, which is facing violence in and around Tripoli.
The agency has called on other states to follow Italy’s example of accepting refugees and migrants into their borders.