Refugees in Libyan Detention Centres Evacuated to Rwanda

Rwanda, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR) and the African Union have agreed to evacuate refugees and asylum seekers in Libya. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed last week, in the capital city, Addis Ababa, to set up a transit mechanism for evacuating refugees out of Libya. The UNCHR reported that refugees and asylum seekers will be transferred to Rwanda voluntarily.

Rwanda’s policy, like Uganda’s, allows refugees the right to work, with an aim of “progressively integrating refugees into national systems for health and education”. In 2017, Rwanda hosted about 172,000 refugees, many from recently war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo and politically unstable Burundi.

Despite its horrific past with the Rwandan genocide, the nation has been developing at a very fast pace in recent years. Under President Paul Kagame, the nation has curtailed corruption, revived the economy and maintained political stability. It is one of the cleanest places on earth. It also holds the title for the world’s number one country for women in power. Nevertheless, like Uganda, the country’s humanitarian stance is blighted by an ever-increasingly authoritarian government under President Kagame, who has been accused of human rights violations.

In a statement released last week, the UNCHR said: “The first group of 500 people, predominantly from the Horn of Africa, will be evacuated, including children and youth at risk. After their arrival, UNHCR will continue to pursue solutions for the evacuees.

“Evacuation flights are expected to begin in the coming weeks, and will be carried out in co-operation with Rwandan and Libyan authorities.”

The plight of refugees and asylum seekers will be decided once they arrive in the country. Some refugees will be resettled in third countries while others will be assisted with moving to countries in which they were previously offered asylum. Refugees who can safely return to their home countries will also be assisted with their return, while some will be permitted to remain in Rwanda. The conditions to be met for granting asylum in Rwanda to Libyan refugees is, at yet, unascertained.

Since 2017, the UNCHR has evacuated more than 4,400 refugees and asylum-seekers out of Libya. The Northern African country currently has 5,600 refugees arbitrarily detained in refugee camps. There are also about 800,000 migrants and 50,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers in the country. Refugees in Libya have spoken of the inhumane conditions in which they are held, including a recent airstrike on the Tajoura Detention Centre where 50 refugees and migrants were killed, and another 130 wounded. The UN claimed that both sides of the ongoing Libyan conflict knew the location of the detention centre.

Following the July airstrikes, António Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, appealed to the European Union and the African Union to “consider the protection of the human rights of migrants and refugees a core element of its engagement in Libya.”

They asked for countries in the international community to provide more evacuation and resettlement places, and extra resources, to guarantee the safety of refugees and migrants in Libya.

The evacuation of Libyan migrants to Rwanda is another political and humanitarian step towards Pan Africanism. Libya’s ongoing conflict and anti-migrant policies does not protect its refugees and asylum seekers as it should. African nations with better refugee policies, such as Rwanda and Uganda, can better protect refugees, and enable them to integrate into a new African society.

Humanitarian refugee-integration policies enables Africa to take care of its refugees, without returning to the tradition of seeking help from the West. Refugees, permitted to use the resources of their host country, can go on to enrich their host country which in turn enriches Africa. While there are many obstacles to reaching Pan Africanism, such as corruption, international debts, terrorism and conflict, continued intra-continental humanitarian support is one battle won.