Refugees from Libya arrive in Rwanda, unaccompanied minors among first group

Some of the 66 African refugees and asylum-seekers are cleared at the immigration counters on arrival at Kigali International Airport from Libya on Thursday. Rwanda is expected to receive at least 500 of them according to an agreement signed between the Government with the UNHCR and African Union. The refugees will be hosted at the emergency transit facility at Gashora in Bugesera District. / Courtesy: UNHCR

A group of 66 African refugees and asylum-seekers from Libya arrived in Rwanda yesterday.

They are the first batch of the 500 evacuees that Rwanda pledged to receive as part of the efforts to rescue thousands that are languishing under gross human rights abuses in detention camps in the North African country.

The group touched down at the Kigali International Airport on Thursday evening aboard a chartered plane.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (UNHCR) in Libya, the first group of refugees that left Misrata Airport in Libya included many unaccompanied minors, single mothers and families.

In a tweet, UNHCR Office in Libya referred their journey to as one “that will grant them safety and security after years of struggle.”

After failed attempts to reach Europe and getting stranded in Libya, distressing revelations have shown that tens of thousands of people from across Africa were being subjected to abuses including slavery.

Many of the refugees that were received in Rwanda are from the Horn of Africa, a region that includes Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.

Charlie Yaxley, the UNHCR Spokesperson for Africa and the Mediterranean, on Wednesday described the development as “a crucial lifeline for men, women, and children who have suffered dire conditions” and risk of being caught up in the conflict that is ongoing in Libya.

In a video he posted on twitter, he expressed hope that some of them may be integrated into the local Rwandan community, while others may be eventually resettled in a third country.

“For some, they will be resettled onwards to third countries; others may have the opportunity to be reintegrated here into local Rwandan communities, but the most important thing is that now these vulnerable refugees are finally safe,” he said.

During their stay in Rwanda, they will be hosted at an emergency transit mechanism in Bugesera District, Gashora Transit Centre.

The centre, which has previously hosted Burundian refugees before they were relocated to other sites, has lately been receiving a facelift to make its new occupants as comfortable as possible.

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.

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