UNITED NATIONS :The United Nations migration agency and the Government of Niger welcomed the first 504 people from Libya to Niger, kicking off a voluntary mass evacuation of nearly 4,000 migrants, the U.N. said Friday. “After the discussions at the [African Union-European Union] summit in Abidjan, the government has demonstrated its commitment to making this evacuation a priority and a reality,” Alberto Preato, the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism (MRRM) Programme Manager, declared on Friday. Organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Niger with the Embassy of Niger in Libya, and under the initiative of President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou and Prime Minister Brigi Rafini, the migrants registered for voluntary return at Niger Embassy in Tripoli. The African Union aims to return thousands of migrants from Libya over the next six weeks after international condemnation of slave auctions in Libya revealed by recent CNN footage. Between 400,000 and 700,000 migrants are thought to be in more than 40 detention camps across the north African country, often under inhumane conditions, the AU Commission chairman has said. Europe has struggled to stem the flow of tens of thousands of Africans making the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean. But many Africans still make the journey, risking death and abuse, saying pressure that include high unemployment and climate change leave them little choice. African and European leaders last week drew up an emergency evacuation plan for migrants, agreeing to airlift at least 3,800 stranded in detention centers across Libya. On Wednesday, the first of eight charter flights carrying 504 migrants, including women and young children, arrived at the Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey. IOM is providing technical and logistic support for the registration, profiling, reception and onward transportation of the returning migrants, under the MRRM financed by the European Union.
Orignally published by APP