By offering to give refuge to African immigrants stuck in Libyan detention camps, the Rwanda government says it wants to show leadership by providing African solutions to African problems.
Elise Villechalane, the United Nations High Commission for Refugee external relations officer for Rwanda, told The EastAfrican that Rwanda’s gesture is a demonstration of sharing responsibility in order to protect people in need.
“The Emergency Transit Mechanism in Rwanda is an example of the kind of humanitarian interventions needed to rescue vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers who are caught up in the escalating conflict inside Libya,” she said.
In an arrangement that was struck between Rwanda, the UNHCR and the African Union in May, Kigali will receive 500 refugees and asylum seekers from Libya. Ms Villechalane said this arrangement would enable the UNHCR to support more people.
Rwanda is in charge of the Emergency Transit Mechanism, while the AU is providing overall strategic and high-level political support, as well as advocacy.
The UNHCR is bearing the cost of the evacuation flights, transport to the transit facility in Bugesera, the basic needs of protection and humanitarian assistance, while working on durable solutions.
Human traffickers have taken advantage of the state of war and general lawless in Libya to offer immigrants from the country a transit route to Europe through the country’s 1,770km unpoliced coastline
The International Organisation for Migration estimates that nearly 182,000 African migrants transiting through Libya have landed in Italy in the past two years, exacerbating an already critical refugee problem spilling out of Syria and other parts of the Middle East.
Five out of the six countries that border Libya—Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria and Tunisia—have either been engulfed in war or are in the midst of violent unrest.
The refugees from Libya hosted by Rwanda have the right to safe lives, access to medical care, school and work, and the government in close collaboration with UNHCR will ensure they become self-reliant.
“The refugees are required to respect the laws and regulations of the host country. Freedom of movement is granted provided they inform the authorities when they move outside of the district,” said Ms Villechalane.