In November 2017, UNHCR established for the first time an Emergency Evacuation Transit Mechanism (ETM) for the evacuation of vulnerable refugees from detention in Libya to Niger. The programme was established in order to facilitate the processing of refugees trapped in detention and to enable 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. This MoU has been extended in December 2019 for two years.
In detention centers in Libya, where UNHCR has access, vulnerable refugees in need of international protection are identified by UNHCR Libya staff. They are screened and their information is shared with UNHCR Niger. Lists for evacuation are established based on vulnerability. The first evacuation flight took place on the 11th of November 2017. Since then, 25 more evacuation flights have arrived from Libya to Niger, carrying a total of 3,080 refugees and asylum seekers.
Process in Niger
Once the refugees and asylum seekers arrive in Niger, UNHCR conducts a verification interview and register them biometrically. This is followed by refugee status determination (RSD) procedures by the government 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, where food, medical care, education, psychosocial support etc. are readily available. On the 4th of March 2019, a first group of 120 evacuees were transferred to the ETM transit facility in the commune of Hamdallaye, in the Tillaberi region (40km from Niamey), constructed with a maximum capacity of 1,500 persons. The most vulnerable refugees remain in guesthouses in the capital city. Durable construction and development of the transit facility is ongoing.
Following screening of the files in resettlement countries, the responsible parties of the governments of third countries undertake a mission to Niger to interview those under consideration for resettlement. The results of the interviews are communicated to UNHCR Niger following the resettlement mission. Some resettlement countries may decide based solely on the file shared with them by UNHCR, and do not necessarily undertake a resettlement mission to Niger.