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Migrants: IOM, Niger welcome first charter from Tripoli; a new Italy-Libya joint operation room

TRIPOLI/NIAMEY, DECEMBER 9 – Following recent international discussions, the Government of Niger and IOM, the UN Migration Agency in Niger have begun the mass evacuation of the almost 4,000 migrants that have registered for voluntary return at the Embassy of Niger in Libya.

Organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Niger with the Niger Embassy in Tripoli, and under the initiative of President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou and Prime Minister Brigi Rafini, the evacuations officially began this week (06/12) with the arrival of the first of eight charter flights carrying 504 migrants, including women and young children at the Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey.

In the meanwhile a “joint operations room” for tackling migrant smugglers and traffickers as part of efforts to curb migrant flows toward Europe was established today in Tripoli  by the head of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez Sarraj, Libyan Interior Minister Aref Khodja, and his Italian counterpart Marco Minniti.

A statement from Serraj’s office said the center would consist of “representatives from the coastguard, the illegal migration department, the Libyan attorney general and the intelligence services, along with their Italian counterparts.” No details were given on the location of the center and how it would operate. The Italian navy already has a presence in Tripoli port, providing “technical” assistance to Libya’s coastguard, according to Italian and Libyan officials.

According to Saturday’s statement, Seraj told Minniti that “despite the successes achieved in the migration file, the number of illegal immigrants outside shelters remains large and we need more cooperation, especially in securing the borders of southern Libya through which these migrants flow”.

After the successful reception of the first charter last night, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Niger officially confirmed the plans for seven additional charters carrying 500 migrants each, one per day, from Wednesday (06/12) onwards, to transport the total 3,850 Nigerian migrants now registered in Tripoli.

Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s Minister of Interior praised in his speech the fruitful partnership with IOM, and complimented the Organization for making possible the dignified return of Nigerien migrants under the best possible conditions.

The success of the operation is a stepping stone in strengthening the partnership between IOM and the Government of Niger.



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