A first group of 42 refugees is scheduled to arrive in Switzerland in the first week of April as part of an emergency operation to evacuate endangered migrants from Libyan detention centres.
This is according to UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean Situation Vincent Cochetel in an interview with swissinfo.ch.
Asked to confirm this information, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) said that a first group was expected to arrive in April and that they are mostly vulnerable single women who have been evacuated from Libya to Niger. However, their statement did not give any numbers.
Switzerland announced in December that it has agreed to take up to 80 particularly vulnerable refugees as part of an emergency plan by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to evacuate thousands of people from detention centres in Libya. Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga described this as an “urgent humanitarian measure” and said it was justified because of the catastrophic situation in Libya.
The Swiss move comes in responseexternal link to a request from the UNHCR, which is looking for host countries to take refugees as soon as possible.
Cochetel told swissinfo.ch that the UNHCR aims to evacuate 10,000 people and that 1,376 people have been evacuated so far. “312 have gone to Italy, two have gone to Romania and the rest have gone to Niger for resettlement processing,” he said. France has also taken a small group from Niger.
“We are asking Switzerland and also other European countries and countries outside Europe to take more because we really need to make sure that we evacuate as many people as possible from Niger,” Cochetel added. “So Switzerland will consider other cases in order to reach that target of 80, and I hope that Switzerland will be able to take more refugees from Libya via Niger in the future.”