A hundred and nineteen more asylum seekers arrived in Rwanda from Libya on Tuesday evening, joining 824 others awaiting resettlement.
This is the eighth flight of evacuees to Rwanda, and the first this year, since the Emergency Transit Mechanism began in September 2019. It brings the total number of evacuees to Rwanda to 943.
Most asylum seekers are from Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia. Some had been living in the Libyan capital Tripoli, while others had been arbitrarily held in detention, some for several months.
The 119 evacuees will join 269 refugees and asylum seekers currently hosted at the transit centre in Gashora, Bugesera, as they await resettlement to third countries, return to countries of origin, or residence in Rwanda, among other options.
According to the UN refugees agency, UNHCR, more than 620 asylum seekers have been resettled in third countries since 2019.
This is the second flight of evacuees received since Rwanda, the African Union, and UNHCR signed an addendum to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) of the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in November. It extended the operation of the Gashora-based transit centre to accommodate refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable people at risk in Libya until December 31, 2023.
Covid-19 travel restrictions hampered the resettlement exercise, which resumed in 2021 with two flights.
At the Gashora transit centre, asylum seekers and refugees receive shelter, food, medical care, psycho-social support for vulnerable cases, activities for children, and language courses. The African Union also mobilises resources and provides strategic political support with training and coordination.
Parties also agreed to expand the capacity of the transit facility from the initial capacity of 500 persons to accommodate 700 people. Last year, UNHCR estimated that some 1,680 persons of concern are still trapped inside detention centres across Libya and urgently need to be evacuated to safety. With this latest evacuation, 8,143 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers have been taken out of Libya to safer countries since 2017.
Last year also saw Rwanda sign another deal with Denmark regarding cooperation on asylum and migration issues, enabling Rwanda to host asylum seekers from the European country that hosts thousands of Syrian refugees. Rwanda has struck the same deal before with Israel and could see scores of African refugees and asylum seekers were taken to Rwanda.
Other countries taking in asylum seekers under the mechanism are France, Norway, Sweden, Canada, and Belgium. have been taking in some of the asylum seekers, but UNHCR continues to call upon other countries to come forward and resettle the remaining asylum seekers.
*Story updated to revise the number of evacuees who arrived from Libya to 119 instead of 100.