The International Organization for Migration (IOM) published its annual report for 2021 on Wednesday. It stated that “32,425 migrants were rescued or intercepted at sea and returned to Libya,” noting that 655 migrants died and 897 others went missing off the Libyan coast last year.
Earlier, 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,” it 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 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 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.”
In 2020, 11,891 migrants were rescued, 381 died, and 597 people went missing in the central Mediterranean, according to IOM.
Libya is now a “favourite” departure point for migrants wishing to reach European shores. This comes at a time when the country’s migration shelters are overcrowded, amid repeated international calls to close down these centers.