The government of Rwanda, the UNHCR and the African Union recently agreed to extend an agreement to host refugees and asylum seekers from Libya for another two years. Signed in September 2019, the MoU established an Emergency Transit Mechanism (EMT) to host asylum seekers from Libya, mainly African immigrants who found themselves stuck on the Mediterranean coast after botched attempts to cross into Europe. Rwanda offered to temporarily host the asylum seekers before they are relocated to third countries, decide to return to their native countries, or request to remain citizens of Rwanda. The extended agreement entails that the EMT, which is currently located in Gashora, Bugesera District, will continue operating until December 31, 2023 and increase its current capacity of hosting 500 people to 700 at a time. According to a joint statement released by the three parties, Rwanda will continue to receive and provide protection to all people identified as particularly vulnerable, at risk or those being held in Libyan detention centres. “They will be transferred to safety in Rwanda on a voluntary basis where some may benefit from resettlement to third countries, helped to return to countries where asylum had previously been granted, or return to their home countries if it is safe to do so,” read the statement in part. “Some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities,” added the statement. Since September 2019, Rwanda has received a total of 648 refugees and asylum seekers from eight African countries, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon. They arrived in six evacuation flights from Libya, but only 281 remain in the transit camp today as others have been resettled. UNHCR speaks out In an exclusive interview with The New Times, the UNHCR spokesperson and external relations officer in Kigali Elise Villechalane, hailed Rwanda’s initiative and challenged other member countries to do so. “We request other countries to adopt Rwanda’s initiative, because more people remain trapped inside Libyan detention centres, and they need urgent protection and humanitarian support,” she noted. She also added that the next flight of other asylum seekers will take place before the end of this year. Over 1,680 Persons of Concern (POCs) are currently inside detention centres across Libya and Human rights groups have documented multiple cases of rape, torture and other crimes at the facilities, some of which are run by militias. Rwanda made the commitment to host the African refugees trapped in Libya after their desperate journeys to seek asylum in European countries were cut short as European nations stepped up migrant controls. Many ended up in detention centres where they suffered different kinds of human rights abuse, including being sold on open markets as slaves. Persons eligible for relocation to Rwanda include refugees recognized by UNHCR Libya, asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR Libya, refugee children and youth at risk as well as the families of asylum-seekers and refugees. In Rwanda, they have the right to access medical care, school and work. Rwanda is also a home to hundreds of thousands of Burundian and Congolese refugees as well.