UN says 79 vulnerable refugees evacuated from Libya to Rwanda

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The first arrival of 66 refugees and asylum seekers from Libya supported by Rwanda's UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, at the Kigali international airport (Photo: UNHCR)
File Photo: Refugees arrive at an airport in Kigali, Rwanda after a UNHCR evacuation flight from Libya. © UNHCR/Tobin Jones

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday that it had evacuated 79 vulnerable refugees from Libya to Rwanda.

“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has evacuated yesterday evening (Thursday) a group of 79 vulnerable asylum-seekers out of Libya to safety in Rwanda,” said UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch.

“These critical, life-saving flights from Libya to Rwanda had been on hold for nearly a year because of COVID-19-related worldwide border closures and movement restrictions,” the spokesperson added.

The evacuated refugees included men, women, and children from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia, Baloch said, adding most of them were living in Libya’s capital Tripoli and many had been held in detention.

“With the latest evacuation, 581 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers have been taken out of Libya this year, including 221 via resettlement. Currently, more than 45,200 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with UNHCR in Libya, including nearly 670 held in the government-run detention centers,” Baloch noted.

Many illegal immigrants, mostly Africans, choose to cross the Mediterranean from Libya toward Europe because of the insecurity and chaos in the North African country following the overthrow of the former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Thousands of illegal immigrants, either rescued at sea or arrested by the authorities, have remained detained inside migration reception centers in Libya, despite repeated international calls to close those centers.

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