Panafrican News Agency

Sixty-six African migrants from Libya arrive in Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) - The first group of 66 African refugees evacuated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) from Libya arrived in Rwanda on Thursday aboard a chartered flight, an official source confirmed to PANA Friday in Kigali.

"The group consists mainly of unaccompanied minors, vulnerable mothers and their children," Olivier Kayumba, the Permanent Secretary of the Rwandan ministry in charge of Emergency Management, said.

Upon arrival in Kigali, the refugees were sent to Gashora Transit Camp, about 40 Km from Kigali in southeastern Rwanda, where they were welcomed by the Mayor of Bugesera District, Richard Mutabazi and UNHCR officials.

“We want to welcome you to Rwanda in a very special way. Consider this place your home away from home,” Mutabazi told the group.

Rwanda, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the African Union (AU) earlier this month signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set up a transit mechanism for evacuating refugees and asylum seekers out of Libya.

According to the agreement, Rwanda will receive and provide protection to a group of 500 refugees and asylum seekers in Libya, as well as others identified as particularly vulnerable and at risk, who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya, and will be transferred to safety in Rwanda on a voluntary basis.

In 2017, the Rwandan Government made the commitment following damning revelations that tens of thousands of people from across Africa were not only stranded in Libya after their failed bid to reach Europe but many of them were being subjected to slavery.

It is expected that some of the refugees will be resettled in third countries while others might choose to go back to their home countries.

Estimates by the United Nations indicate that almost 5,000 migrants 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.

-0- PANA TWA/MA 27Sept2019