Libya: Italy opens doors to 146 refugees in operation cooordinated with UNHCR

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ROME, MAY 2 – “Evacuations of refugees from Libya continue. Thanks to Italy for this important gesture”, the High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said after a group of 146 women, men and children landed in Pratica di Mare, under the umbrella of the “humanitarian corridors” organized by the Italian Governent. “it is possible to save lives at risk in orderly, well managed operations, but we need more countries to participate and support”, said Grandi.

Italy was the first to allow the refugees’ trip since fighting threatening the capital Tripoli resumed in Libya four weeks ag. The refugees were trapped in detention centers near the frontline. “It’s now crucial that other states match this gesture and offer similar evacuation places for refugees caught up in the conflict,” said Grandi, adding that “turning a blind eye will have real and tragic consequences.”

The evacuation was a joint operation between UNHCR, the Libyan Interior Ministry and Italian authorities. Among those flown to Italy were 46 children who were separated from their families. According to the UN refugee agency, a “humanitarian pause was coordinated and facilitated with all parties to the conflict to allow for the safe passage of the migrants and refugees.” Thousands of refugees and migrants continue to be held in detention centres, where even prior to the recent clashes they faced dire and squalid conditions. People report being in fear for their lives and can hear gunshots and airstrikes nearby. They are at risk of being abandoned or caught up in the conflict should the fighting spread to their locations. (@OnuItalia)