The United Nations on Friday began evacuating a number of African migrants from Libyan detention centers to the Rome, after a wave of criticism from human rights groups over refugee conditions in Libya.
The first flight carried 162 people from the most vulnerable groups from Tripoli to Rome, including women, children and elderly Africans, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Libyan government.
Vincent Cochetel, a representative of the central Mediterranean region of the United Nations’ refugee agency, said in a statement that five of the women who arrived in Italy had given birth in inhumane conditions.
“Some of those evacuated suffered tremendously and were held captive in inhumane conditions while in Libya,” the New York Times quoted Cochetel as saying.
“This is a historic day. This is the first time that a humanitarian passway has been opened from Libya to Europe. This is just a beginning. We will continue to work with UNHCR,” Interior Minister Marco Minniti told reporters at a military airport in Rome.
The issue of deporting African migrants has recently dominated EU leaders’ talks with Libyan officials. Libya has asked European governments to receive, assist and support the largest number of migrants to secure their southern border through which illegal migrants flow.