ROME, DECEMBER 22 – 162 among the most vulnerable migrants freed from detention centers in Libya were transferred to Italy through a new humanitarian corridor in cooperation with the Libyan based UNHCR office and the Italian Government. “A difficult, but successful humanitarian operation”, UNHCR’s Filippo Grandi said on Twitter.
The initiative is advancing Italy‘s strategy against illegal migration and human smuggling by creating legal frameworks for migrants in need, the Italian Embassy in Tripoli remarked today. Humanitarian corridors to Italy have been established already for Syrian and Iraqis refugees in Lebanon and for Ethiopia. “We really hope other countries will follow the same path,” Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean, said in a statement after the first plane arrived.
The migrants arrived in Pratica di Mare, a military airfield not far from Rome, aboard two Italian Air Force C130 planes: mostly women and children, they were until 12 hours before imprisoned in one of the detention center for illegal migrants in Tripoli. “Some of those evacuated suffered tremendously and were held captive in inhumane conditions while in Libya. Five of these women gave birth while in detention, with only the very limited medical assistance,” Cochetel said.
The agreement which made their trip possible involved Italy, the Libyan government and the United Nations along with the Italian Bishops Conference. Italy’s Catholic Church will house many of the new arrivals in shelters across the country, Church charity Caritas said, as the migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen go through the country’s asylum request process. UNHCR selected the migrants in the past few weeks choosing among the most vulnerable categories. “This should be a point of pride for Italians,” Interior Minister Marco Minniti told reporters on the tarmac: “This is the just beginning. We will continue to try to open this humanitarian corridor.”
UNHCR estimates about 18,000 people are being held in detention centres for immigrants that are controlled by the Tripoli government and it aims to evacuate as many as 10,000 next year. (@OnuItalia)