Refugees trapped in war-torn Libya ‘lose all hope’ as coronavirus sees evacuations plummet

Resettlement of refugees hits a ‘record low’ in 2020, as Bel Trew reports

Migrants are rescued after trying to flee Libya on a precarious wooden boat
Migrants are rescued after trying to flee Libya on a precarious wooden boat

Evacuation of refugees trapped in war-torn Libya has fallen by nearly 90 per cent this year compared to the whole of 2019, according to data from the United Nations, which warned global resettlement of asylum seekers was at a “record low”.

UN officials said coronavirus travel restrictions have halted resettlement programmes, stranding tens of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people. Among the hardest hit are those trapped in war-wrecked Libya, where refugees risk kidnap, torture, enslavement, or being held in abusive government detention centres. Despite the dangers so far this year, UN officials say only 297 people have been safely removed from the country, and only 169 of those rehomed. Last year 2,260 individuals were able to leave Libya with the UN’s assistance, including 859 who were resettled and 1,410 who were evacuated. 

“The numbers this year will be particularly low in comparison to the previous two years because of Covid-19 – not only because of the impact on departures from Libya but also on transit and receiving countries,” said Shabia Mantoo, the UNHCR’s spokesperson on resettlement. With travel restrictions tentatively lifting, she urged states to fulfil their pledges to take in some of the world’s most vulnerable. 

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