Hundreds of vulnerable refugees have been evacuated from risk and abuse in Libya and taken to safety in Rwanda via UNHCR’s Emergency Transit Mechanism. This is possible thanks to funding and resettlement commitments from Norway.
© UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana
For 33-year old Tahani, it was a question of saving her children’s lives that drove her to flee her hometown of Jabarona in conflict-torn Sudan a few years ago.
“Conflict forced me to flee. For me, the most important thing is that my kids live in a safer environment. No attacks, no weapons. I wish them a safer place than the one we have lived in,” says the single mother.
She decided to take on the long journey to Libya, not knowing the horrors and brutality that she, her two sons and her daughter would experience and witness. Killings, rape, discrimination and inhumane treatment – nightmares that still haunt her today, even if she is now finally able to enjoy peace and breathe fresh air in Rwanda.
Tahani and her children are among the refugees, who have survived extortion, sexual violence and human rights abuses in Libya – but who have been evacuated by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, often after securing their release from detention centres, where many have spent months or even years in appalling circumstances.
Since September 2019, Rwanda has generously accepted to host a transit facility in Gashora as a critical part of UNHCR’s Emergency Transit Mechanism, allowing UNHCR to undertake essential evacuations of the most vulnerable refugees out of Libya. So far, three evacuations to Rwanda have taken place, bringing a total of 306 refugees, including newborn babies, unaccompanied minors and women at risk, to safety.
UNHCR appealed globally for funding to the Emergency Transit Mechanism, and Norway was among the first countries to respond by contributing 5.5 M USD (NOK 50 million) in support. This helps UNHCR to continue the life-saving operation, accommodating the evacuated refugees and providing them with vital medical care, psycho-social support as well as general assistance.
In addition, Norway has made another substantial contribution by committing to resettle 600 evacuated refugees from Libya from the Rwandan transit facility in 2020. The resettlement programme not only provides a durable solution to refugees, who can get a chance to rebuild their lives, it also allows for more refugees to be evacuated out of harm’s way and the horrible conditions they face in Libyan detention camps.
“The support and funding from Norway is vital for the life-saving evacuations of refugees at risk of serious harm. In the current situation with continued and intensified fighting in Libya, and the threat from COVID19 only adding to the humanitarian crisis, this is more urgent than ever. Norway’s decision to prioritize resettlement out of Rwanda with a substantive quota not only brings hope and a brighter future to hundreds of refugees, it also sends an important message of solidarity and responsibility-sharing to Rwanda and the African continent,” says Henrik M. Nordentoft, UNHCR’s Representative for Northern Europe.
Since November 2017, UNHCR has been evacuating refugees from Libya to a transit center in Niger as well as a smaller number of evacuations directly to Europe. In 2019, UNHCR helped a total of 2,427 refugees and asylum-seekers to find solutions outside of Libya.
For Tahani, being evacuated to Rwanda has brought her hope for her children’s future:
“It’s hard being a refugee but being a refugee mother is even harder. Since I arrived in Rwanda, I’ve been able to bring hope to my children. My son likes to play football and he is dreaming of becoming a great African football player. I’m glad that he dreams of his life. That is only possible, because we are safe here.”
Tahani and her children are among the refugees, who have survived extortion, sexual violence and human rights abuses in Libya – but who have been evacuated by UNHCR. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana
For Tahani, being evacuated to Rwanda has brought her hope for her children’s future. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana
For Tahani, it was a question of saving her children’s lives that drove her to flee her hometown. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana
Norway has for many years provided UNHCR with strong political support and important level of funding.
In 2019, Norway was ranked as UNHCR’s seventh biggest donor with a total contribution of USD 94 million and ranked as the largest donor per capita – when funding is seen against the size of the donor country’s population.