Rwanda receives second group of African evacuees from Libya

A group of 123 African refugees and asylum seekers were evacuated from Libyan detention centres and arrived in Kigali International Airport on 10 October. This is the second group of forcibly displaced people in Libya which Rwanda offered to host

The migrants, the majority of whom are Eritrean, were evacuated from three Libyan detention centers: Al Sabhaa, Abu Selim, and Tariq al Sikka. They join another 66 migrants who arrived in Kigali in late September.

“They have been given asylum-seeker status while their cases are assessed and further solutions are pursued, including resettlement, voluntary return to countries of the previous asylum, voluntary return to countries of origin where safe to do so and integration with local Rwandan communities,” UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told press in Geneva.

The asylum seekers were taken to a transit facility in Gashora, where the UNHCR is providing assistance such as “food, water, medical care, psycho-social support and accommodation,” according to Mahecic.  

“Around half of the group (59), were under 18 years old, the vast majority of whom had been separated from their parents and wider family.  One of the children had previously been held in detention for more than two and a half years. The youngest evacuee is just eight months old,” the UNHCR spokesperson added.

Rwanda’s Ministry of Emergency has also confirmed that three minors and 24 women. Aged between 14 and 20 years, were among the newly arrived group.

The majority of the evacuees are unaccompanied children, women, survivors of torture and other abuses, and people in need of medical treatment. Survivors of the 2 July airstrike on Tajoura detention centre, which killed nearly 60 people and injured about 130 others, were also among this group of evacuees.

After footage revealed apparent migrant slave auctions in Libya in 2017, Rwanda agreed to take in 30,000 African migrants from Libya over the following years. In September 2019, the African Union, the Rwandan government and the UNHCR signed the Emergency Transit Mechanism where Rwanda vowed to receive the first set of 500 refugees and migrants from Libya. 

According to Rwanda’s Ministry of Emergency Management, the Emergency Transit Mechanism was set to protect, assist and find long-term solutions for extremely vulnerable refugees trapped in detention in Libya through temporary evacuation to Rwanda.

UNHCR applauded Rwanda for its stand to protect vulnerable refugees and said “189 refugees and asylum seekers evacuated from Libya are now safe in the Gashora Transit Center while solutions are sought. Thanks for the big heart.”

UNHCR further added that even though 1,663 vulnerable refugees and migrants were brought out of Libya this year so far, faster and more flexible processes are needed to move the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants still stranded in the country.

TMP 17/10/2019

Photo credit: Rwanda’s Ministry of Emergency Management (MINEMA)

Photo caption: Some of the evacuees after they cleared their travel documents at Kigali International Airport.