Rwanda, African Union, UNHCR to Continue Evacuating Refugees from Libya

ADDIS ABABA – Agreement has been reached between the Government of Rwanda, the African Union and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency for contention of refugees and asylum seekers evacuation from Libya, said the Pan African bloc on Friday.

The trio on 14 October 2021 signed the First Addendum and extension to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated 10 September 2019 establishing an Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) from  Libya to Rwanda.

This addendum takes effect immediately and will ensure that the established ETM in Gashora, Rwanda continues until 31 December 2023, and increases its capacity from the initial 500 to 700 persons at anyone time, AU said in a statement.

Under this agreement, AU says Rwanda will continue to receive and provide protection to refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as others identified as particularly vulnerable and at-risk, who are currently being held in detention centers in Libya.

They will be transferred to safety in Rwanda on a voluntary basis, according to the AU.

As per the agreement, UNHCR will continue to pursue durable solutions for the evacuees following their arrival in Rwanda.

“While some may benefit from resettlement to third countries, others will be helped to return to countries where asylum had previously been granted, or to return to their home countries if it is safe to do so,” the statement says.

“Some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities,” it says.

Evacuation flights are expected to resume and will be carried out in co-operation with Rwandan and Libyan authorities.

The African Union will continue to provide assistance with evacuations, mobilize resources, and provide strategic political support with training and coordination.

UNHCR will provide protection services and necessary humanitarian assistance including food, water, accommodation, education, and healthcare.

Rwanda has received a total of 648 refugees and asylum seekers so far, who arrived in six evacuation flights from Libya to the ETM since its establishment in September 2019.

Currently, the ETM in Rwanda hosts 214 refugees and asylum seekers from eight African countries, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon.

However, some 1,680 Persons of Concern (POCs) are currently inside detention centers across Libya.

They urgently need to be moved to safety and to be provided with protection, lifesaving assistance, and durable solutions, according to AU’s statement.

On Friday, AU and UNHCR urged the international community to continue contributing resources towards the implementation of the agreement and assist POCs in these detention centers, and called on other Member States to emulate Rwanda’s example.


Featured Image Caption: UNHCR staff assess the needs of refugees and migrants at Triq Al Sikka detention center, Libya, February 2018.  [Photo File/NHCR/Sufyan Said]