ROME, DECEMBER 1 – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) chief Filippo Grandi met on Friday with the Italian Minister for the Interiors Marco Minniti. “I agreed with him that strengthening the protection of refugees and migrants in Libya is an urgent priority. He assured of Italy’s support”, Grandi said on Twitter.
Grandi, who is taking part in the Med Dialogues conference in Rome, said that UNHCR is continuing to seek access to detention centers in Libya but that “it would take time”. The centers, he told ANSA on the sidelines of the meetings, are managed ”by the authorities and unfortunately also by other militias. We have convinced the authorities to release about 1,000 people, who were actually refugees, from the detention centers, and we are working on at least 2,000 others. I believe that we are making progress. It takes a long time and working in Libya is not easy. It is a job that will take a long time.”
The first UNHCR managed transit camp on the other hand will open probably at the beginning of 2018 ‘taking into account the fact that we are operating in a volatile situation”. The situation in Libya is complicate, but UNHCR has been authorized to begin its work and will open the center as soon as possible, when the building, currently abandoned, will be repaired.
A recent CNN investigation on migrants sold as slaves in Libya ”speaks about situations that we have been speaking about for a long time,” Grandi said, but ”I think that it had the merit of sparking indignation and debate”, as well as ”concrete measures, such as the task force” approved at the Abidjan summit between the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations, and ”measures that we are beginning to take in Libya to secure greater access to migrants and refugees and to offer them solutions, either in Libya or elsewhere”.
The first transit center will serve those who need international protection, for which ”we have received authorization from the Libyan authorities”, he said. These measures ”are small steps, but important starting points for work that we hope will have a positive impact on these tens of thousands of people trapped in these desperate situations.” (@OnuItalia)