UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on Tuesday evening evacuated a group of 119 vulnerable asylum seekers out of Libya to safety in Rwanda.
The group of men, women, and children – the youngest less than one year old – were from Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia. Most had been living in urban areas of Tripoli, and others had been arbitrarily held in detention, some for several months.
The group evacuated last night will join another 269 refugees and asylum seekers at the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Gashora, Rwanda, where UNHCR provides assistance including shelter, food, medical care, psycho-social support for vulnerable cases, activities for children, and language courses.
“These evacuation flights out of Libya continue to provide hope and safety to refugees and asylum seekers trapped in Libya”, said UNHCR’s acting Chief of Mission in Libya, Djamal Zamoum.
“Their success lies in the generosity of donors, and the good cooperation and coordination with Libyan and Rwandan authorities. However, additional effort is needed from other countries to speed up the implementation of durable solutions from Rwanda and provide more resettlement opportunities for the most vulnerable refugees from Libya.”
The group will stay at the transit facility while durable solutions are sought for them, including resettlement, voluntary return to countries where they had previously been granted asylum, countries of origin whenever it is safe to do so, or integration with local Rwandan communities, if possible.
“African solutions to African problems such as the evacuation of children, women, and men in critical need is a success we are grateful to be part of,” said Ahmed Baba Fall, the UNHCR Representative in Rwanda. “The efforts to give a chance to these new evacuees in a very safe place that the Government of Rwanda, the African Union, and our donors continue to support are commendable and UNHCR reiterates its commitment to continued protection services, life-saving assistance as durable solutions are sought.”
The Emergency Transit Mechanism in Rwanda was set up in mid-2019, following an agreement between the Government of Rwanda, UNHCR, and the African Union, and with financial support from the European Union, Austria, Denmark, Germany, and the USA, to provide a safe space and long-term solutions to some of the most vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees in Libya.
Rwanda has since received over 900 asylum seekers, who arrived on eight evacuation flights from Libya to the ETM since its establishment. 67% of them have been resettled to third countries.
With this latest evacuation, 8,143 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers have been taken out of Libya to various safer countries since 2017.