95 refugees from Africa, Syria arrive Italy from Libya via UNHCR charter flight

Migrants prepare to depart for Italy from Libya via humanitarian corridor | Photo: UNHCR / M. Alalem

At least 95 refugees from various African countries and Syria have arrived in Italy on a UNHCR charter flight. The migrants were victims of torture and other serious forms of abuse.

A reported 95 refugees arrived in Rome from Libya on Thursday (June 30) as part of an organized evacuation.

The migrants, who came from detention camps in Libya, were “victims of torture and other serious forms of abuse,” organizers said, adding that some were also trafficking victims and people with serious health conditions.

The migrants are originally from several African countries (including South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, Cameroon) and Syria. They will be hosted in different Italian regions.

The flight was the third organized as part of a protocol signed in April 2021 by the Italian ministries of interior and foreign affairs, the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI), and the Valdensian Community and covers emergency evacuations and humanitarian corridors.

‘Important sign of solidarity and humanity’

The passengers landed in Rome with a UNHCR charter flight and were welcomed at Fiumicino airport by members of the Community of Sant’Egidio, FCEI and the Valdensian Community who will organize their process of integration in Italy.

The Italian foreign ministry is “on the frontline of the emergency evacuation from Libya of particularly vulnerable people,” said Luigi Vignali, the director general for migration policies at the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation. “Once again, close cooperation between institutions and civil society is key, with the common objective of freeing refugees from Libyan detention centers,” he said.

Francesca Ferrandino, the head of the department of civil liberties and immigration at the interior ministry, said her ministry is committed “to strengthening legal pathways into the territory for refugees and the vulnerable.”

“This latest arrival from Libya is the tangible result of a fruitful cooperation between public and private” partners, she said. “Humanitarian corridors from Libya represent a concrete answer to the needs of refugees who are particularly vulnerable in a context of protracted crisis on which the attention of institutions remains high,” she added.

1,000 from Libya to Italy

Chiara Cardoletti, the UNHCR representative for Italy, the Holy See and San Marino, said her organization was “(g)rateful to Italy for its commitment in pursuing this lifesaving operation.

“It is an important sign of solidarity and humanity. In an increasingly uncertain and unsafe world, where over 100 million people have been forced to flee, we hope to be able to continue working together to widen safe pathways – including resettlement – allowing refugees to rebuild their lives safely and with dignity.”

Since 2017, the UNHCR has evacuated or resettled 6,145 refugees and asylum seekers from Libya, with 997 of them in Italy.

Evacuations resumed in November 2021 after a year of interruption due to a ban on humanitarian flights by Libyan authorities.

UNHCR estimates that in 2023, more than two million refugees will need to be resettled globally – marking a 36% increase compared to needs reported in 2022

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