Rwanda: The first large group of refugees evacuated from Libya resettled to Sweden

UNHCR sincerely expresses gratitude to Sweden and Canada for kick starting the first resettlement departures of ETM evacuees.

The first major group of refugees evacuated from Libya resettled to Sweden and Canada. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana

Kigali – On Monday 24 February 2020, a group of 27 refugees evacuated from Libya was resettled to Sweden from the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) center located in Gashora, some 60 km from Kigali, Rwanda.

This marks the first large group of refugees to be resettled since the start of the ETM programme Rwanda in September 2019 and brings the total number of evacuees resettled so far to 39 persons. A smaller group of resettled evacuees had left for Sweden in December 2019 and while the first resettlement departures to Canada followed on Wednesday 25 February 2020 with a group 5 refugees.

This resettlement program, supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and IOM, is part of the five durable solutions pursued for all refugees evacuated from Libya during the time they are granted sanctuary in Rwanda. While some may benefit from resettlement to third countries, others are helped to return to countries where asylum had previously been granted, or to return to their home countries if it is safe to do so. Some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda or benefit from complementary pathways, provided through family reunification and work, medical and humanitarian visas. UNHCR undertakes all necessary efforts in order to facilitate the timely search and implementation of durable solutions based on the principle of voluntariness.

The first major group  of refugees evacuated from Libya have are

Michael, 24, showing his travel document to a UNHCR Staff before his depature from Kigali International Airport. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana

The first major group  of refugees evacuated from Libya have are

This marks the first large group of refugees to be resettled since the start of the ETM programme Rwanda in September 2019 and brings the total number of evacuees resettled so far to 39 persons. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana

The first major group  of refugees evacuated from Libya have are

The resettlement program is a significant milestone in the quest to providing a new in life for some of the most vulnerable refugees in Africa. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana

The first major group  of refugees evacuated from Libya have are

"This is the start of a new journey. Thank you Sweden for giving me a second chance to rebuild my life," Michael, 24. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana

The UNHCR representative to Rwanda, Mr. Ahmed Baba Fall noted that this resettlement program is a significant milestone in the quest to providing a new in life for some of the most vulnerable refugees in Africa, who have gone through a perilous journey in the hands of smugglers and traffickers and have suffered various forms of abuse in Libya.

Mr. Ahmed followed this by saying, “This is a monumental day for these refugees, for UNHCR and all partners supporting the ETM in Rwanda. Heartfelt thank you to the Rwandan Government and the African Union who have opened the humanitarian corridors that save hundreds of lives. We could not have done it without their commitment to the refugee cause. We also commend the generosity of UNHCR supporters like the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, Norway and Malta, and resettlement countries like Sweden and Canada, who help evacuees regain hope for a brighter future”.

In addition to providing durable solutions to evacuees, resettlement departures will allow to receive, in the coming weeks, the fourth evacuation flight taking more refugees and asylum seekers away from harm and indiscriminate fighting in Libya.

The remaining 268 evacuees currently hosted in the ETM center in Rwanda continue to receive protection services and life-saving assistance, including food, water, medical care, psycho-social support, and accommodation, while the appropriate durable solutions are being sought. Some of these refugees might also depart for resettlement in the coming months as, like Sweden and Canada, Norway and France have pledged to welcome and integrate refugees from the ETM.

So far, the UNHCR operation in Rwanda has received the below resettlement pledges:

  • Norway:         600 places for Rwanda, incl. 300 for ETM refugees
  • Canada:         800 places for Rwanda, incl. 200 for ETM refugees
  • France:           200 places for Rwanda, incl. 100 for ETM refugees
  • Sweden:         200 places for ETM refugees

UNHCR sincerely expresses gratitude to Sweden and Canada for kick starting the first resettlement departures of ETM evacuees. We also take this opportunity to request other resettlement countries to expand their resettlement programs and accelerate case processing modalities, in order to rescue more vulnerable refugees and increase their access to durable solutions.

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Rwanda has been welcoming refugees for over two decades. As of 31 January 2020, there are 150,574 refugees individually registered with UNHCR. The country offers a safe and protective environment to all asylum seekers and refugees.