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The head of the mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Libya announced that a group of 93 stranded asylum-seekers were evacuated to Rome, Thursday, in the first operation of its kind since humanitarian flights to Italy were stopped two years ago.

In a statement, a copy of which was published in Arabic, the UNHCR stated that a total of five trips to Italy over a year would be organized, including 500 asylum seekers, “as part of a new mechanism that combines emergency evacuations and humanitarian corridors.” The last evacuation to Italy dates back to 2019.

The group evacuated from Tripoli to Rome is made up of “children and women at risk, survivors of violence and torture, and people with critical medical conditions.”

“We are pleased to see that these evacuation flights have become a reality, and to see the support provided by the Libyan authorities to them,” said Paul Cavalieri, the organization’s head of mission in Libya.

The official added that the flights “represent a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable asylum seekers,” recalling that “the conditions in Libya are very difficult for many refugees,” and called on the international community to “widen similar paths to safety.”

Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, the situation of irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers has become critical, drawing criticism from the United Nations and NGOs.

Tens of thousands of them sought to reach Europe by sea, endangering their lives, while many of them are in detention centers in deplorable conditions.

At the end of October, Libya allowed the resumption of humanitarian flights after suspending them for about a year, allowing the transfer of dozens of refugees and asylum seekers to other countries until the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees finds a permanent solution for them or guarantees their repatriation within the framework of the voluntary return program.

On 4 November, UNHCR evacuated 172 asylum-seekers from Libya to Niger, where they are receiving support pending solutions, under the Emergency Transit Mechanism supported by UNHCR.

On November 21, UNHCR also evacuated 71 refugees, including 37 children, to Canada with the support of the International Organization for Migration. Among them are “families from Syria, Sudan, Palestine and Somalia,” the majority of whom are “victims of kidnappings or ill-treatment in Libya.”

Since 2017, UNHCR has evacuated or resettled 6,919 refugees and asylum-seekers from Libya, 967 of whom have been hosted by Italy.

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