Rwanda, UNHCR and African Union agree to evacuate refugees out of Libya

Refugees from Somalia, Syria and Eritrea board a bus at UNHCR’s Gathering and Departure Facility in Tripoli, April 2019. Photo by UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem

The African Union on Tuesday penned an agreement which will see the refugees being held in Libya’s detention centres being evacuated to Rwanda.

A first group of 500 refugees from the Horn of Africa will be evacuated in coming weeks out of 4,700 now estimated to be in custody in Libya, under a new transit mechanism, UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said.

Under the agreement, the government of Rwanda will receive and provide protection to refugees and asylum-seekers who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya. They will be transferred to safety in Rwanda on a voluntary basis.

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. Some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities.

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 will provide assistance with evacuations, strategic political support,  training and coordination, and to help  mobilize resources.

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