Rwanda, the African Union and UNHCR extend agreement to support the emergency evacuation of refugees and asylum-seekers from Libya

Rwanda. Au delegation visits ETM

UNHCR staff accompany Amira Elfadil, the AU's Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian and Social Development (centre), as she and her delegation visit the Emergency Transit Mechanism centre in Rwanda.   © UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana

The Government of Rwanda, the African Union and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency signed an Addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) to continue evacuating refugees and asylum seekers from the State of Libya to the Republic of Rwanda. 

The addendum, which extends the provision and legality of the ETM, will allow for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom have been trafficked and experienced violence in Libya - including detention in dire conditions - to be assisted.

By extending the agreement with immediate effect, it ensures that the operation at the ETM Centre Gashora, Rwanda, will continue until 31 December 2023.  The facility will also expand its capacity to evacuate and accommodate up to 700 people at any given time, an increase from the current maximum capacity of 500 persons. 

Under this agreement, the Government of Rwanda will continue to receive and provide protection and assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers and other vulnerable people at risk in Libya. They will be evacuated to safety in Rwanda on a voluntary basis. 

Upon arrival, UNHCR will pursue durable solutions for the evacuees. While some may benefit from resettlement to third countries, others will be facilitated to return to previous countries of asylum, or to return to their home countries if it is safe to do so. Some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities.

Evacuation flights to Rwanda are expected to resume in the coming weeks and will be carried out in co-operation with Rwandan and Libyan authorities. The African Union will continue to support the evacuations, mobilise resources, and provide strategic political support with training and coordination. UNHCR will proceed with protection assistance and all relevant humanitarian support including food, water, accommodation, education, and healthcare.

Since September 2019, 648 people were evacuated arriving in six flights from Libya to Rwanda.  UNHCR and the Ministry in charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA) conduct individual registration of all the individuals and issue registration documents that allow them to move within Rwanda and access assistance provided at the Centre. Cases are then processed for individual solutions, including Best Interest Determinations (BIDs) for unaccompanied and separated children and resettlement interviews. Currently, the ETM in Rwanda hosts 214 refugees and asylum seekers from eight African countries, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon.

Earlier this year, an African Union delegation headed by H.E. Amira Elfadil, the AU’s Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian and Social Development, and accompanied by UNHCR officials visited the ETM centre and expressed solidarity with the people and government of Rwanda for their generosity in hosting vulnerable refugees evacuated from Libya.

The AU and UNHCR are grateful to the international community for the resources provided so far to implement the agreement and help these vulnerable people, including from the European Union Trust Fund and other EU member states contributions.  AU Member States are urged to emulate Rwanda’s example.