The first group of African refugees and asylum seekers from Libya will arrive in Rwanda today evening, the Ministry in charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA) confirmed Wednesday.
Earlier this month, the Government of Rwanda signed an agreement with the African Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under which it will host 500 refugees and asylum seekers from Libya.
Seventy-five of them are set to arrive in the country Thursday aboard a chartered plane, and will touch down at Kigali International Airport in the evening, according to Olivier Kayumba, the Permanent Secretary in MINEMA.
The Government last week approved the list of the 75 as the initial group to be evacuation to Rwanda, but they had to wait for their exit visas and transportation which were being processed by UNHCR.
On arrival, the refugees will be hosted at an emergency lakeside transit facility, Gashora Transit Centre, located in Bugesera District, outside the City of Kigali.
The centre has lately been receiving a facelift ahead of the imminent arrival of the first group of evacuees.
The evacuation will be done on voluntary basis with persons eligible to benefit from the centre include refugees recognised by UNHCR Libya, asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR Libya, children and youth at risk registered as refugees, as well as spouses and children of asylum-seekers and refugees.
Rwanda first made the commitment to host refugees from Libya in 2017 following damning revelations that tens of thousands of people from across Africa were not only stranded in the northern African country after their failed bid to reach Europe but many of them were being subjected to slavery.
Media reports indicated that the refugees were openly being sold in modern-day slave markets in Libya.
In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York, President Paul Kagame hinted on Rwanda’s preparations to receive the refugees,
“Rwanda is preparing to receive and protect a number of refugees and asylum-seekers from detention camps in Libya. The support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the African Union is greatly appreciated,” he said.
He said that security and stability are “the prerequisites for rapid progress” toward a more equitable and prosperous world and that it is essential for Africa and the rest of the international community to work closely together on peacekeeping and peace building efforts, with mutual respect.
The Government of Rwanda is expected to provide protection to the refugees, asylum-seekers, and other evacuees identified as particularly vulnerable and at-risk, who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya.
Rwanda is already home to nearly 150,000 refugees mainly from DR Congo and Burundi. The refugees mostly live in six camps spread across the country, but there are others who live in urban centres in most City of Kigali and Huye District.
The United Nations estimates that almost 5,000 refugees are in detention in Libya, about 70 per cent of whom are refugees and asylum-seekers, with most of them having been subjected to different forms of abuse.
Human rights groups have documented cases of rape, torture and other crimes in Libyan detention facilities, some of which are run by militia groups.