UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Countries that have pledged to take in migrants and asylum-seekers stranded in Libya and Niger are making “slow” progress in meeting their commitments, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) special representative in the central Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, said on Wednesday.
The United Nations estimates there are about 48,000 people in Libya, some in detention centers, while thousands have been evacuated to neighboring Niger, where they are waiting in camps to be transferred to other countries.
A total of 6,606 have been promised a transfer to a third country.
Belgium, Britain, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States pledged to receive numbers.
But in an interview with Agence France-Presse, Kostel said that “about half of these pledges have been fulfilled.”
Kochtel’s comments came this week on the sidelines of a meeting in the Malian capital of Bamako that brought together international experts and African ministers to discuss the issue of forced displacement in the Sahel region.
“Things are going slowly for several reasons,” he said.
“Countries are not rushing to decide on files or they may have the impression that when people (from Libya) arrive in Niger, the state of emergency is over.”
He acknowledged that UNHCR’s verification process to ensure that applicants met the requirements for relocation to a third country was time-consuming.
“Some of those who have returned from Libya believe that they have the automatic right to be transferred to a third country. In our view (transfer to a third country) is a solution for many of them, but not all of them.”
He added that “there is no priority for those who go to Libya to move to a third country.”
He explained that UNHCR considers that the rights of Eritrean refugees who are waiting in camps in Ethiopia and Sudan to transfer to a third country are equivalent to the rights of those.
Kostel praised the positions of Rwanda and Niger, which have offered to temporarily receive refugees from Libya.
Rwanda agreed on Tuesday to receive an initial batch of 500 people, a figure that could rise to thousands. The first group will include people from the Horn of Africa.
He called on other countries to follow their example.
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