More than 13,000 migrants have been repatriated from Libya since the beginning of December, the African Union’s chief said Monday, nearly two months after reports emerged showing refugees being sold as slaves.
That number is short of the AU’s goal to fly 20,000 out of the conflict-wracked north African nation by mid-January, but chairperson of the AU commission Moussa Faki Mahamat insisted the campaign was on course.
“We have 13,000, and every day, the number increases,” Mr. Faki told a press conference after the closing of an AU summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
“I believe that this process is on course, although with a bit of delay. Already more than two thirds… have been repatriated,” he added.
Mr. Faki announced the repatriations after media reports emerged in November showing black Africans being sold as slaves in Libya, which has no central government.
The country collapsed into violent chaos after the 2011 revolt that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with a myriad of militias and several jihadist groups battling for influence.
Libya has long been a transit hub for migrants seeking a better life in Europe, but people smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business since the revolution.
Together with the United Nations and European Union, the AU is ferrying the migrants out of Libya on flights organised by individual African countries, Mr. Faki said. Many of those who were repatriated are refugees, he added.
Those who cannot go back to their home countries have been offered refuge by Niger and Rwanda.
Moments before departure. Today, UNHCR evacuated 134 vulnerable refugees from Libya to our Emergency Transit Facility in Niger – we have so far evacuated 523 refugees to third countries (162 to Italy and 361 to Niger) pic.twitter.com/GUYfu22M6L
— UNHCR Libya (@UNHCRLibya) January 26, 2018