The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced on Tuesday that it plans to repatriate between 5,000 and 10,000 refugees from Libya in 2018.
“We are working to end the detention of refugees and asylum seekers in Libya,” Libya’s representative Roberto Mignoni said during an interview with Libyan journalists in the Janzour area of the Libyan capital Tripoli. “We also call for alternatives to detention. Finding durable solutions such as resettlement and voluntary repatriation.”
“Countries in Europe, the Americas and New Zealand have agreed to resettle some of the refugees and asylum seekers stranded in Libya after being interviewed by the embassies of these countries in countries outside Libya,” he said.
Minnouni said they planned to “deport some 1,000 refugees in Libya by next January and deport between 5,000 and 10,000 refugees in 2018.”
He added that “the refugees targeted in the deportation plan are from seven countries, namely Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.”
The UN official noted that the UNHCR registered “about 44 thousand and 306 refugees and asylum seekers in Libya,” and confirmed that it was able to “help in the release of 1024 migrants from the shelters in Libya.”
He also noted that UNHCR was able to “deport 160 refugees to Niger last week and 170 others to Italy for resettlement in other countries.”
The issue of refugees and illegal immigrants in Libya has become a focus of attention recently after the US news network CNN reported in November an investigation into what it said was an auction to sell migrants in Libya.
The report included a video taken stealthily at a secret immigration center, showing a number of them being sold at auction by smugglers to work as farmers.
Libya’s national reconciliation government has opened an investigation, while Libyan officials have repeatedly denied a “slave market” in the country.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya announced last Saturday that more than 17,000 illegal immigrants from Libya have been repatriated this year.
The organization is carrying out a voluntary return program to arrange for the return of illegal migrants stranded in Libya since 2006.