Operation Under Way to Rescue Libya Migrants, African Union Says

An African migrant woman and children wait at the Tariq Al-Matar detention center on the outskirts of Tripoli on Nov. 27, 2017.

Photographer: Taha Jawashi/AFP via Getty Images

Leaders from Europe and Africa agreed on an emergency plan to start with the evacuation of as many as 700,000 migrants from Libya.

The repatriation of 3,800 mostly West African migrants from a camp in Tripoli will commence “immediately,” African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat told reporters Thursday in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast. The AU estimates that 400,000 to 700,000 migrants are stuck in Libya whose authorities identified at least 42 camps, Mahamat said after a meeting between heads of state of the AU and European Union.

Morocco will send planes to assist with the rescue of the 3,800 people while officials from the two continents and the United Nations will work with Libya to identify and rescue others, AU Chairman Alpha Conde told journalists.

The plight of African migrants was highlighted this month by videos of what the International Organization for Migration described as slave markets in Libya in scenes that have drawn global condemnation.

On Wednesday, leaders and officials of the EU, AU and United Nations met with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Mustafa Al-Sarraj to find solutions for this “atrocious and unbearable situation,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters. Governments across the two continents will reinforce cooperation to dismantle trafficking networks and their funding mechanisms while the EU may help to pay for the repatriation of migrants to their countries of origin, Macron said.

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