The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced the first arrival to Italy, with migrants evacuated from detention centers in Libya. This "humanitarian corridor" marks the start of a new way for migrants to enter Europe from Libya, which Italy's interior minister Marco Minniti hailed as a "historic day."
"For the first time a humanitarian corridor has been opened from Libya to Europe. It's a start," the Italian minister said, cited by France24, adding that "Today is a historic day."
The UNHCR is hoping that this marks the beginning for a broader, more comprehensive effort to evacuate migrants in Libya to third countries, and hopes that more countries will follow Italy's example.
"For the first time, we have been able to evacuate vulnerable refugees straight from Libya to Italy. This is really ground-breaking and a much welcomed development that could not have happened without the strong commitment of the Italian authorities and the support of the Libyan
Due to appalling conditions in the existing Libyan government detention centers, following allegations of abuse and enslavement, the United Nations has determined to close the centers and evacuate the migrants who are stranded there.
Those that arrived in this first flight of migrants to Italy came from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen, and included families, single mothers, unaccompanied children, as well as disabled people, the UNHCR writes on their website. All of them, they say, require medical treatment. While two of these countries (Somalia and Yemen) face ongoing internal conflicts, others (Eritrea, Ethiopia) are simply poor.
Despite this new arrival and the opening up of a "humanitarian corridor", Italy has overall seen migrant arrivals drop two thirds since July, after Italy expanded cooperation with the Libyan authorities and coast guard, The Daily Mail reports.
According to the Italian news agency ANSA, the deal between Italy and the Libyan coast guard has "virtually wiped out" arrivals from that country. It noted, however, that arrivals had increased slightly from Tunisia and Algeria.