Rwanda, UNHCR, AU agree to protect asylum seekers from Libya

Tunukunde Gasatura

RWANDA, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and African Union (AU) on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set up a transit mechanism for evacuating refugees and asylum seekers out of Libya.

The MoU which was signed in AU headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, said the first batch of 500 refugees and asylum seekers will be evacuated in the coming few weeks.

According to the agreement, Rwanda will receive and provide protection to refugees and asylum-seekers.

They will also protect people identified as particularly vulnerable and at-risk, and those who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya.

The agreement said all those identified above will be transferred to safety in Rwanda on a voluntary basis.

Rwandan Ambassador to AU, Hope Tunukunde Gasatura, said the initiative is in line with the pledge made in November 2017 by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to make generous offer of receiving thousands of migrants stranded in Libya.

“Though the MoU covers 3,000, but Rwanda, will receive 500 at a time, second, we can have enough time to prepare for them.

“Our partners, under the leadership of the AU can come and follow up and ensure that things are as they are supposed to be.’’

The first group of 500 persons in need of international protection will be evacuated from Libya, and the group is principally made up of people originating from the Horn of Africa, and also includes children and youth at risk.

After their arrival, UNHCR will continue to pursue solutions for the evacuees, while some may benefit from resettlement to third countries.

However, 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.

According to the agreement, some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities.

The MoU stated that evacuation flights are expected to begin in the coming weeks, and will be carried out in co-operation with Rwandan and Libyan authorities.

The African Union (AU) will provide assistance with evacuations, mobilise resources, and provide strategic political support with training and coordination.

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

During the joint press conference at the AU headquarters, the AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Amira Elfadil, and the UNHCR Representative to AU and UNECA, Cosmas Chanda, commended Rwanda for the generous offer.

The commissioners urged other AU member states to follow the same suit.

Elfadil, who is the AU special envoy on the situation of stranded migrants and refugees in Libya, said Rwanda’s move gives signals to other AU member states to take similar measures.

The UNHCR has urged the international community to contribute resources to the implementation of the agreement.

The commissioner has evacuated more than 4,400 persons of concern out of Libya to other countries since 2017, including 2,900 through the Emergency Transit Mechanism in Niger.

It has also evacuated 425 persons to European countries through the Emergency Transit Centre in Romania.

However, some 4,700 persons of concern are currently estimated to be held in dire conditions inside detention centres in Libya.

They urgently need to be moved to safety and to be provided with protection, lifesaving assistance, and durable solutions.

Insecurity and chaos have been rampant in the North African country following the 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi. (Xinhua/NAN)

– Sept. 10, 2019 @ 18:15 GMT |

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