Canada opens doors to some 750 ex-slaves from Libya

A migrant looks out of a barred door at a detention centre in Gharyan, Libya, in 2017

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen says more than 150 people have already arrived and at least 450 more are expected over the next two years.

The announcement comes more than a year after the United Nations asked countries to accept refugees living in slavery in Libya, a major stopping point for asylum-seekers from Africa who seek to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.

The UN request came after a video that appeared to show smugglers selling imprisoned migrants near Tripoli became public in 2017.

Canada is also taking in 100 refugees rescued from Libyan migrant detention centres in Niger.

The head of resettlement for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Ottawa, Michael Casasola, says Canada was one of the few countries to respond to the UN request.

Migrants are seen after being rescued off the coast of Libya last summer.

“What Canada has done in addition in addition to being part of the pool of cases in Libya, they’re actually taking refugees out of Niger directly, which is something that helps us get some space with local governments too,” Casasola said.

The influx of immigrants from Africa has sparked a backlash in many parts of Europe as well as in some parts of Canada.

A migrant child after being rescued from a wooden boat in the central Mediterranean in 2017

Italy, for example, does not allow ships to bring migrants to its shores, as part of an effort to force other European Union countries to share the burden of dealing with arrivals.

Since January 2018, it is estimated that at least 2,500 men, women and children have drowned in the Mediterranean attempting to get to Europe.

Canada resettled nearly 47,000 refugees from Syria in 2016 and over 1,200 Yazidi refugees from Iraq in 2018.