The Government of Rwanda, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have reached an agreement for the evacuation of refugees and asylum seekers from Libya, according to the Pan African bloc on Friday.
The three signed the First Addendum and Extension to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of 10 September 2019 on the 14th of October 2021, which established an Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) from Libya to Rwanda.
This addition takes effect immediately and ensures that the existing ETM in Gashora, Rwanda operates until December 31st, 2023, while increasing its capacity from 500 to 700 people at any given moment, according to the AU.
Rwanda will continue to welcome and safeguard refugees and asylum seekers, as well as individuals designated as exceptionally vulnerable and at-risk, who are presently being held in Libyan detention camps, according to the AU.
The AU also stated that they would be relocated to Rwanda for safety on a voluntary basis.
According to the agreement, UNHCR will continue to seek long-term solutions for evacuees once they arrive in Rwanda.
While some may benefit from resettlement to third countries, others will be assisted in returning to countries where asylum was previously granted, or returning to their home countries if it is safe to do so, according to the statement.
It says that some may be granted permission to remain in Rwanda if the proper authorities agree.
Evacuation flights are likely to continue, and they will be coordinated with Rwandan and Libyan officials.
The AU will continue to assist with evacuations, resource mobilisation, and strategic political support through training and coordination.
The UNHCR will provide protection and essential humanitarian aid, such as food, water, shelter, education, and healthcare.
Since the ETM’s inception in September 2019, Rwanda has accepted a total of 648 refugees and asylum seekers, who arrived in 6 evacuation aircrafts from Libya.
214 refugees and asylum seekers from eight African nations are now housed at the ETM in Rwanda: Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon.
However, some 1,680 Persons of Concern (POCs) are currently inside detention centres across Libya.
They urgently need to be moved to safety and to be provided with protection, lifesaving assistance, and durable solutions, according to the AU’s statement.
On Friday, the AU and UNHCR urged the international community to continue contributing resources towards the implementation of the agreement and assist POCs in these detention centers. It also called on other Member States to emulate Rwanda’s example.