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Libya: UNHCR, 17,000 refugees and migrants detained; Italy, “ultimately political solution to Libyan crisis is key”

NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 28 – UNHCR is strengthening its activities in Libya through the engagement of the Italian Embassy in Tripoli. Meetings facilitated by the Embassy involving local authorities and the UN Refugee Agency are opening the way to the resettlements of migrants and vulnerable categories, the Italian Permanent Representative to the UN Sebastiano Cardi told a Security Council briefing on the detention centers in Libya. Strengthening refugee protection and offering solutions along the routes is key, the UN Refugee Agency chief, Filippo Grandi told the Council members.

In Libya, some 17,000 refugees and migrants are in detention, Grandi said. Many more are held by smugglers and traffickers, protected by well-known militias. Tackling these problems is linked to progress on political solutions and functioning governance structures, the Refugee Agency chief added.

This council session, during which member states were briefed also by the head of IOM, William Lacy Swing, was the third in a series organized under the Italian Presidency for the month of November: “Human mobility, exploitation and abuses against migrants and the situation in Libya and in the Mediterranean are at the center of Italy’s action at the UN”, Cardi said. In fact, on November 17 a resolution against human trafficking was adopted during a meeting chaired by the Italian Foreign Minister, Angelino Alfano.

Today’s meeting was held at UN Headquarters in New York in response to growing international concerns about risks facing migrants and refugees, which were illustrated by recent news reports and videos showing African migrants in Libya allegedly being sold as slaves. “This is an enormous human tragedy and we can stop it,” said William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), via video link from Geneva, underscoring the need to break the smugglers’ business model. In such efforts, IOM has helped 13,000 people get out of detention centres in Libya and 8,000 in Niger, he said, noting that there are about 15,000 still in such facilities.

“We must not forget that the issue of large numbers of people being trafficked through Libya dates way before the recent spotlight by international media”, Cardi said referring to the CNN images of “modern day slaves auctions” which have raised the issue at the international level. According to the Italian Ambassador, who is also the President of the UN Council for the month of November, “ultimately, the solution of this problem is a political solution of the Libyan crisis”.

The briefing was requested by France while in Burkina Faso the French President, Emmanuel Macron, called for a joint EU-African iniziative to tackle “crimes against humanity” committed by the criminal networks and human traffickers in Libya. “UNHCR is playing its part, together with IOM”, Grandi told the Security Council: “Progress is discernible, though still modest. Security remains volatile and access to certain key locations is not possible. Yet working closely with UNSMIL, and with the support of some donors, for which I am grateful, we are making progress towards expanding our scope of action”, he said. At the same time the High Commissioner recalled the Security Council member states that of the 40,000 refugee resettlement places which he asked for 15 countries along African-Mediterranean routes, only 10,500 have been offered so far: “An encouraging, but still insufficient number”.

To read UNHCR chief Grandi statement, click here.

To read Ambassador Cardi full statement, click here.(@OnuItalia)


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Alessandra Baldini e’ stata la prima donna giornalista parlamentare per l’Ansa, poi corrispondente a Washington e responsabile degli uffici Ansa di New York e Londra. Dirige OnuItalia.

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About Alessandra Baldini

Alessandra Baldini e’ stata la prima donna giornalista parlamentare per l’Ansa, poi corrispondente a Washington e responsabile degli uffici Ansa di New York e Londra. Dirige OnuItalia. Contact: Website | Twitter | More Posts

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