UNHCR: 177 Migrants Repatriated from Libya to Niger

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On Thursday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that 177 asylum-seekers, including women and young children, have been evacuated from Libya to Niger.

“In the last evacuation flight of the year out of Libya, UNHCR has brought 177 vulnerable asylum seekers to safety in Niger,” the UNHCR said in a statement.

It is the second evacuation flight to Niger this year, since the Libyan authorities lifted a blanket ban on humanitarian flights in October.

“This is the 30th evacuation flight to Niger organized since the Emergency Transit Mechanism was established,” the UNHCR statement added.

UNHCR noted that the mechanism was established in 2017 by the government of Niger, which agreed to temporarily receive asylum seekers and refugees facing a life-threatening situation in Libya.

“So far, a total of 3,710 refugees and asylum seekers have been evacuated from Libya to Niger. 3,255 have departed from Niger to third countries on resettlement, or complementary pathways,” the UNHCR statement said.

Jean-Paul Cavalieri, the UNHCR Chief of Mission for Libya, said that “these life-saving flights bring hope of a better future for some of the most vulnerable people urgently seeking security and protection. Some migrants have just been released from detention, while others have been living in urban areas. Many are victims of smuggling or trafficking and have experienced violence in Libya.”

Libya and Niger signed a memorandum of understanding to protect migrant workers through effective work visa issuance before employment, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said last month.

The IOM noted in a report on the nature of migration dynamics between Libya, Chad, and Niger, that crossing the Sahara Desert is one of the world’s most perilous migration journeys.

“The migration routes are remote and vehicle breakdown and the threats from bandits are frequent. Migrants often travel spontaneously, following in the footsteps of centuries of migration before them, often with no documents or legal status,” the report explained.

The MoU is considered as a step towards regularizing labour migration, and to better respond to Libya’s labour market needs.

“Bilateral collaboration plays a key role in promoting the labour rights of Nigerian migrants in Libya, to improve their working conditions, and thereby to facilitate the remittances to their communities of origin and contribute to the development of their home country through remittances,” said Barbara Rijks, Chief of Mission of the UNHCR in Niger.

It will also contribute to combat migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons, and promote safe and regular migration pathways,” she added.