In November 2017, UNHCR established for the first time an Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) for the evacuation of vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers from detention in Libya to Niger. The programme was established in order to facilitate the processing of refugees and asylum seekers trapped in detention and to ensure access to protection and to durable solutions.
UNHCR and the Government of Niger signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in December 2017, temporarily expanding the Niger asylum space to these refugees and asylum seekers. This MoU has been extended in February 2020 for another two-year duration.
Refugees and asylum seekers in Libya are identified for eventual solutions outside Libya based on their vulnerabilities. While in the past evacuees were either directly evacuated from detention centres or through the Gathering & Departure Facility (GDF), persons are at the moment selected mostly from urban settings with a history of being in a detention centre before being released. This is due to ensure no negative coping mechanisms are sought as well as to advocate for the ‘end of detention policy’ in Libya. The persons of concern are screened and their personal information is shared with UNHCR Niger.
The first evacuation flight took place on the 11th of November 2017. Since then, 27 more evacuation flights have arrived from Libya to Niger, carrying a total of 3,361 refugees and asylum seekers.
Process and living conditions in Niger
Once the refugees and asylum seekers arrive in Niger, UNHCR conducts a verification interview and registers them biometrically. This is followed by refugee status determination (RSD) procedures by the Government of Niger and UNHCR. Finally, interviews to prepare resettlement files are completed by UNHCR. These files are then submitted to third countries for consideration. For unaccompanied children, a Best Interests Determination (BID) is completed to seek the most appropriate solution.
UNHCR and partners provide accommodation in the ETM transit facility in the commune of Hamdallaye, Tillaberi region (40km from Niamey) where food, medical care, education and psychosocial support are readily available. On 4 March 2019, a first group of 120 evacuees were transferred to the Hamdallaye center, constructed for a maximum capacity of 1,500 persons. For particular vulnerable cases, such as persons with medical follow-up requirements, advanced stage of pregnancy or mother with newborn babies, three guesthouses remain operational in the city of Niamey. Durable construction and development of the transit facility is ongoing.