Refugees transit centre to be operating in Libya by 2018, UN aims

A shot of the living conditions inside a detention centre in Libya. Credit: UN Migration Agency (IOM)

The UN refugee agency is seeking to open a refugee transit centre in Tripoli early next year to resettle or evacuate as many as 5,000 of the most vulnerable refugees out of Libya each year, a senior UN official said on Friday, Reuters reported.

It is a small fraction of the total number of Libya’s migrant population, estimated at as many as 1 million, but would be a welcome outlet for the 43,000 refugees that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates are now trapped in Libya, Reuters added.

“We hope to have the (written) authorisation soon,” Roberto Mignone, the UNHCR’s representative in Libya, told Reuters in Rome. The UN-backed Tripoli government has already approved the project verbally, he said.

The centre, where migrants will be able to come and go as they please, will be in a former immigration police training facility. Once refurbished, it will be able to temporarily accommodate as many as 1,000 refugees and could be running by early 2018, Mignone said.

Italy has become the main migrant route to Europe since an agreement between the EU and Turkey shut down smuggling through Greece last year, but arrivals have fallen sharply since July, when an armed group clamped down on departures.

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