Rwanda promises African refugees work permits

Saturday August 24 2019

Migrants sit inside the Ganzour shelter after being transferred from the airport road due to fighting in the Libyan capital Tripoli on September 5, 2018. NGOs say migrants in Libya are suffering. PHOTO | AFP


Rwanda has said it will provide African refugees work permits and freedom of movement within the country once they are relocated from Libya, a commitment that has been welcomed by human-rights advocates.

Rwandan diplomats made the offer during a private meeting with American congressional officials last week at the Rwandan Embassy in Washington D.C.

Sources say Rwanda also agreed to provide the refugees with access to education and identification documents, just like it does to Burundian and Congolese refugees in the country.

“The embassy also assured the congress officials that all refugees in Rwanda would have protection and that nobody would be forcibly repatriated,” an official told The EastAfrican.

The deal answers two main concerns of human-rights groups, namely: Free movement and protection of the refugees. What remains is whether relocating the refugees to Rwanda will be on a permanent or temporary basis.

Rwanda said it is ready to accommodate 500 refugees from Libya, but it is willing to go as high as 30,000 under an “emergency transit mechanism” funded by the EU and the UN.


This is within the same proposal Rwanda has been working on since 2017, and part of President Paul Kagame’s push for an EU-style free trade and movement deal in Africa through the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Sources said that Rwanda is working out the final details with UNHCR and the Libyan government and the country is “ready to go as soon as they get the greenlight,” although it is still not yet confirmed whether they will initially be living in camps once they arrive in Rwanda.

President Kagame was scheduled to speak at the G7 meeting in the French town of Biarritz, where one of the key topics will be the issue of migrants from Africa to Europe.

The EU has wooed African countries to accommodate the refugees and asylum seekers as it fears that more than 300,000 people could flee across the Mediterranean Sea and cause a humanitarian disaster if the situation in Libya deteriorates.

Libya hosts over 600,000 African refugees.