Rwanda takes in 79 more refugees stranded in Libya

Monday November 23 2020
Refugees in Rwanda.

African refugees and asylum seekers who had been stranded in Libya arrive in Rwanda's capital Kigali on November 19, 2020. PHOTO | CHRISTOPHE HITAYEZU | NMG


Some 79 refugees and asylum seekers stranded in Libya arrived in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on November 19, the fourth batch to arrive in the country since Rwanda began hosting them in 2019.

The 68 men and 11 women comprise of 42 Sudanese, 33 Eritreans and four Somalis.

After Covid-19 screening and testing, they will be hosted at the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) centre in Bugesera district, some 60 km from Kigali.

On September 10, 2019, Rwanda, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the African Union signed a Memorandum of Understanding to evacuate refugees and asylum seekers out of Libya detention facilities. Rwanda began hosting African the refugees in the same month, with the first batch arriving in Kigali on September 26, 2019. However, travel into Rwanda was stopped early this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“In the absence of legal pathways, desperate people continue to embark on dangerous journeys by sea, leading to the tragic loss of life. In the last week alone, an estimated 114 refugees and migrants have drowned or gone missing in four shipwrecks recorded off the Libyan coast,” Babar Baloch, spokesperson for UNHCR, said.

Elise Villechalane, the spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Rwanda told The EastAfrican, “The situation there is quite difficult, there is still thousands of people stranded in Libya, estimated to 45,000 of whom a great number are in detention centres.”


The ETM has accommodated 306 refugees from previous batches.

“121 persons have been resettled so far, 98 and 23 to Sweden and Canada, respectively. On December 2 and 3 this year, a group of 33 people at ETM will also depart to Sweden,” Solange Kayisire, the Minister for Emergency Management, told The EastAfrican.