Evacuation of refugees from Libya to Niger underway again


The UN refugee agency has resumed evacuation of migrants from Libya with a flight of 132 mostly Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers to Niger for resettlement in third countries.

The group left Tripoli’s Mitiga airport on Tuesday but the aircraft had a technical problem and had to turn back, UN officials said. They were due to depart again late on Wednesday.

UNHCR previously evacuated more than a thousand refugees and asylum seekers to Niger, but the process was suspended from late February because of delays in resettling them in Western countries.

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

Another evacuation flight from Libya to Niger is planned for next week, said UNHCR official Omar Bugharsa.

There are hundreds of thousands of mainly sub-Saharan African migrants in Libya, some who travelled to the country hoping to cross to Europe by sea.

Many experience dire conditions and abuse including forced labour and torture in Libya as they pass through the hands of smuggling networks and armed groups.