First group of vulnerable refugees evacuated from Libya to Rwanda
A group of 66 vulnerable refugees was evacuated from Libya to Rwanda last Thursday, 26 September on a UNHCR-chartered flight. They are the first to benefit from the Emergency Transit Mechanism, recently agreed and set up by the Government of Rwanda, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the African Union.
The group which landed at Kigali international airport around 9:30 pm local time, included a baby born in Libyan detention just two months ago. In total, 26 of the evacuees were refugee children, nearly all of them unaccompanied, without a family member or parent.
One evacuee had not been outside a detention centre for more than four years. All evacuees were either Sudanese, Somali or Eritrean.
Upon arrival, refugees were registered and provided with documentation, before being taken to a transit centre in Gashora some 60 kilometers south of the capital, Kigali, where UNHCR will provide them with accommodation, food, water, kitchen sets, blankets, mosquito nets and other core relief items.
A team of nine health professionals, including a psychologist, will work alongside counsellors specialized in working with children and survivors of sexual violence to provide health care and assist evacuees who survived torture, sexual violence and human rights abuses during their time in Libya.
The entire group has been granted asylum-seeker status, pending an assessment of their refugee claim by UNHCR. They have the same rights as other refugees in Rwanda, including access to education and healthcare, and freedom of movement and to work.
All evacuees will be invited to attend language and vocational training classes to help them integrate with local communities during their time in Rwanda.
Further solutions will then be pursued for refugees, including resettlement for some. Other solutions include voluntary return to countries where they had previously been granted asylum, return home if safe and voluntary, or integration into local Rwandan host communities.
Anyone found not to be in need of international protection will be either assisted to return home or given the possibility of regularizing their status in Rwanda.
A second evacuation flight is expected in the coming weeks as UNHCR continues every effort to get vulnerable refugees in Libya out of harm’s way and to safety. Faster and increased evacuations and initiatives such as the Emergency Transit Mechanism, are urgently needed.
UNHCR urges the international community to support Rwanda’s gesture of solidarity with refugees by providing financial support and resettlement places.
UNHCR estimates that US$10 million will be spent on initial investments and to run the Emergency Transit Mechanism between Libya and Rwanda through the end of the year. This includes initial costs of construction and renovation works, and basic aid and services for evacuated refugees. UNHCR is using flexible funding for the Rwanda ETM, which was not budgeted at the beginning of the year, and is actively soliciting additional donor support.
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