Libyan authorities and the United Nations migration agency repatriated 91 migrants to Niger on Wednesday, mostly women and young children, on a rare humanitarian flight.
“Today we facilitated a flight with the International Organization for Migration for the voluntary departure of 91 migrants,” said Lt. Col. Hussein Amin al-Terki, in charge of returning irregular migrants through Misrata airport.
The flight, only the second since such trips were suspended two years ago, involved 60 children, 25 women and six men, he told AFP.
IOM at the end of last month allowed 127 Gambians to return to their country on the first flight since the suspension ended.
Libya plunged into a decade of violence following the fall and assassination of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 uprising.
Many are caught en route by the Libyan Coast Guard, backed by European states, and returned to Libyan detention centers, where they often face brutal conditions.
In early October, interior ministry forces carried out a large wave of arrests targeting irregular migrants in Tripoli, killing one and injuring 15 as well as arresting 5,000, according to the UN.
Days later, guards at a detention center in the capital shot dead six immigrants, the IOM said, while about 2,000 others escaped.
Since then, hundreds of people have staged a protest outside the local office of the UN refugee agency UNHCR to demand evacuation from a place they say is unsafe.
Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that more than 2,000 Africans living in “precarious conditions” outside a closed UN facility were “in dire need of shelter, food and medical treatment.”
“By destroying makeshift shelters for migrants and asylum seekers, the Libyan authorities created a humanitarian crisis, leaving thousands of people on the streets,” said Hanan Salah, the group’s director in Libya, in a statement.
“Libya and European countries urgently need to respond to this rapidly deteriorating situation as people are exposed to violence and lack basic assistance.”
The statement said “European countries whose support enables the Libyan authorities to prevent people from reaching European shores must step up humanitarian evacuations.”
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