Inside Gashora Transit Centre, where African refugees from Libya will be hosted

Inside one of the bedrooms at Gashora Transit Centre in Bugesera District. The centre will at the beginning host 75 refugees. Sam Ngendahimana.

In a village in Gashora Sector, about an hour from Kigali, workers are busy putting final touches to different facilities in a camp in Bugesera District.

It is a beehive of activity as builders do finishing work on the different buildings inside the Gashora Transit Centre, others are fixing the different water-collection centres scattered across the facility.

Builders are painting, replacing old tiles, paving the pathways, plastering and flooring on different buildings.

Workers put final touches to construction of facilities at Gashora Transit Centre in Bugesera District yesterday. The centre will at the beginning host 75 refugees. Sam Ngendahimana.

All the works are being supervised by a team of humanitarian workers from UNHCR who are all putting on blue half-jackets.

Some of those facilities that are more visible are a dining hall and a clinic that will treat those who will be hosted here.

The camp will be the home for African refugees of different nationalities, who will soon be evacuated from Libya to Rwanda, after the country committed to take them in.

An initial agreement signed earlier this month between Rwanda, UNHCR and the African Union saw Rwanda agree to take on 500 refugees stranded in Libya.

The camp sits on 26 hectare and lies next to a Lake Mirayi, one of the many lakes that dot the area.

This particular lake will be the source of water for the refugees where the water will be pumped and treated from a nearby treatment plant.

According to Eric Muhoza Mayuru, an engineer working at the site, the treatment plant feeds a big water reservoir with a capacity of 45 cubic metres.

This reservoir feeds seven water points comprising about 40 taps.

A few feet from the gate is a health screening centre.

Here, refugees will be received upon arriving, screened, then given an orientation about the camp and surrounding communities before being allocated to the different housing blocs where they will be accommodated.

Next to the reception area are two warehouses with assorted basic items that will be given to the incoming refugees.

This includes beddings like mattresses and bed sheets, kitchenware, and hygiene utensils.

Further ahead are houses, many of which with four rooms, a store, and water harvesting tanks.

Some houses have more than four bedrooms. Three houses share a bathroom and a medium-sized toilet.

All the rooms have already been fitted with beds, with most of them having double-deckers.

According to Elysée Karyango, the Camp Manager, each house can accommodate more than 13 people.

“But because we don’t want people to be squeezed up, we plan to expand the facilities after receiving the initial batch of 75 people,” he explains during the guided tour of the camp.

There are about 32 major housing units in the camp.

By Wednesday when the building activities are complete, the camp manager says, the facilities will ready for the several African refugees from Libya where they are subjected to torture and other inhuman conditions.

An officer with UNHCR who said he was not authorized to speak to the media said the refugees will initially be supplied with food but after sometime they will be given money to take care of themselves.

The camp comprises a feeding and food distribution centre, a playground and other facilities that can accommodate more people.

Alphonse Nambajimana, one of the workers at the centre says he is looking forward to meet his fellow Africans.

“We know what it means to be a refugee and that motivates us to welcome our fellow brothers and sisters who are coming here. We are ready to receive them and work with them,” he says.

In the past, he adds, communities living around the centre have lived with refugees in harmony.

The centre previously hosted Burundian refugees on a temporary basis before they are taken to a permanent camp in Mahama, Kirehe District.

The context

According to the United Nations, some 4,700 refugees are currently in Libyan custody. There are repeated allegations of dire conditions for migrants in Libya’s detention centres, including routine abuse, lack of medical care and insufficient food.

Rwanda offered to give host to some of the refugees and asylum seekers who are willing to come to Rwanda.

By any measure, Rwanda understands the price of being a refugee.

One of renovated houses at Gashora Transit Center

In the store

In the 1960’s and the years after, as a result of bad politics, thousands of Rwandans were forced into refugee in Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Congo, among others.

That perhaps has given leaders a conviction that there is a role to play to contribute to the well-being of Africans.

As a result, President Paul Kagame made the offer in 2017 to host struggling refugees and asylum seekers from the North African country.

In a few days, the first group of those refugees will arrive in Rwanda and will be hosted from this very camp.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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