Switzerland 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 some 5,000 people from detention centres in Libya.
This is an “urgent humanitarian measure”, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told the media on Friday, saying it was justified because of the current catastrophic situation in Libya.
Many migrants trying to get to Europe, including women, children and unaccompanied minors, are held in Libyan camps and unofficial detention centres. Their conditions have raised an outcry in recent months, with reported cases of torture, cruel treatment, sexual violence, even human trafficking and slavery.
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. Sommaruga said other European countries have also agreed to take vulnerable refugees blocked in Libya.
The refugees are expected to arrive in Switzerland in the first half of 2018. They will first be screened in a transit camp in Niger where they will be checked, notably for security. Age and gender will also be taken into consideration.
Drop in requests
The number of asylum requests in Switzerland has dropped sharply in recent months, as in other European countries, thanks to cooperation between countries of Europe and North Africa.
Migrants have been blocked from crossing the Mediterranean, but the problems have not been solved, and that means Switzerland has responsibilities, Sommaruga said.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/jc