UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, evacuated today six vulnerable refugee women from Libya to a country that has accepted to resettle them. A second group of seven refugees is expected to follow shortly.

The women being resettled today suffered horrific abuse and were kept in servitude by an armed group in Libya. They were later detained by the authorities. Following UNHCR’s intervention, they were released and transferred to a safe house in Libya.

In the last 18 months, UNHCR has successfully advocated with the Libyan authorities for the release of over 900 refugees and asylum seekers from detention centres in various parts of the country.

Up to 89 per cent of people crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe depart from Libya. Refugees and asylum seekers are among the over 90,000 who have made the dangerous sea crossing to Europe as of June 30 2017. UNHCR’s protection activities, especially finding alternative solutions – such as resettlement – for refugees making their way to Libya, can contribute to reduce the number of people risking their lives in the Mediterranean.

Since January, UNHCR has submitted resettlement referrals for 60 refugees. Out of these submissions, 15 individuals have been accepted by a third country. So far, a family of five Syrian refugees left Libya for their new country on 31 May. Another Syrian refugee has also been resettled and he is now happily continuing his studies.

Finding solutions that enable refugees to live their lives in dignity and peace is a core part of UNHCR’s work. For those who cannot return, either because of continued conflict, wars or persecution, and are still at risk in their country of asylum, UNHCR seeks resettlement in another country. UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) work together to assist refugees to obtain travel documents, exit visas and facilitate departures for resettlement. Less than 1 per cent of refugees worldwide are resettled annually.

UNHCR appreciates the support of governments providing asylum to refugees and thus contributing to saving the lives of refugees in Libya. UNHCR also appreciates the collaboration with Libyan authorities in the protection of refugees and asylum seekers in Libya and calls on the authorities to expedite the release of detained persons of concern to UNHCR.

UNHCR is expanding its activities in Libya to meet increasing humanitarian and protection needs of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced Libyans, returned IDPs and host communities. It recently issued a funding appeal for US$75.5 million to strengthen protection activities, assistance and durable solutions in Libya, as well as advocacy on issues related to respect for human rights, access to basic services, asylum procedures and freedom of movement