PARIS (Reuters) – Dozens of African refugees, including some that had been stranded in Libya, will arrive next week in a small eastern French village as part of efforts to resettle asylum seekers whose requests have been examined directly in Africa.
The move fits into a United Nations strategy to provide protection for refugees and other vulnerable migrants who attempt to travel to Libya, often intending to make the dangerous sea crossing to Italy.
The 56 refugees, including 21 children and teenagers, will be the first to arrive in France as part of a commitment by the government in August to take in 3,000 refugees living in Chad and Niger by 2019, officials said.
The refugees, who come from countries including Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia, will live in the small village of Thal-Marmoutier, in Alsace, near the border with Germany, after nuns offered to house them in their convent, mayor Jean-Claude Distel told Reuters.
French officials interviewed 230 asylum seekers in Chad and Niger over the past two months, 25 of whom had been evacuated from Libya by the United Nations’ UNHCR refugee agency, said French refugee agency chief Pascal Brice.
He added that most of them would eventually be welcomed in France.
President Emmanuel Macron has said he wanted asylum requests to be examined in refugee “hotspots” to prevent asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean on rickety boats.
Most migrants travelling through Libya towards Europe come from sub-Saharan African countries. Many fleeing poverty, repression or conflict journey across the desert through Niger, Algeria or Sudan.
More than 600,000 have crossed by boat to Italy since 2014.
(Reporting by Julie Carriat; Writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by John Irish)