For Libya’s evacuees, Rwanda got no payment: officials

Kamayirese said the action was for purely humanitarian reasons and was done in consultation with several stakeholders in refugee affairs and was not in any manner transactional.

 

Rwanda has not been paid to offer hundreds of African refugees and asylum seekers a sanctuary that is expected to arrive in the country in the coming weeks, the Minister of Emergency Management said.

Germaine Kamayirese briefed yesterday in Kigali on the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government, the African Union (AU) Commission and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the evacuation from Libya of refugees and asylum seekers.

Rwanda’s African Union representative, Amb. Hope Tumukunde, signed on behalf of Kigali, while Amira Elfadil Mohammed Elfadil, the African Union Commission Commissioner for Social Affairs, and Cosmas Changa, the AU representative of the UNHCR, signed for their respective organizations.

Kamayirese said the action was for purely humanitarian reasons and was done in consultation with several stakeholders in refugee affairs and was not in any manner transactional.

She responded to reports from a segment of global media outlets that Rwanda was receiving European Union payments to receive refugees.

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“This refugee problem is a challenge facing fellow Africans. We should not always wait for external help to save lives, any African country in position to can step in and help,” the minister said.

Under the framework that was signed, UNHCR will cover the cost of hosting the refugees, with the first group of 500 refugees set to be evacuated to Rwanda from Libya in the “coming weeks”. “The group is principally made up of people originating from the Horn of Africa and includes children and youth at risk.”

The MoU labeled the establishment in Rwanda – Gashora Reception Center in Bugesera District of an Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM).

As part of the contract, UNHCR will proceed to seek alternatives for refugees upon their arrival in Rwanda.

According to a joint declaration issued by the three sides to the contract, this could be in the form of third country relocation, repatriation or inclusion in Rwanda.

The agreement was signed at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.

“While some may benefit from resettlement to third countries, others will be 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,” the statement reads in part.

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Some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities, it adds.

The development follows a government commitment in 2017 to host thousands of migrants trapped in Libya as European countries increased controls on migrants.

Under the framework, the “Government of Rwanda will receive and provide protection to refugees and asylum-seeker, as well as others identified as particularly vulnerable and at-risk, who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya,” according to a joint statement released after the signing Tuesday morning.

Speaking in Kigali moments after the agreement was signed, UNHCR Rwandan representative Ahmed Baba Fall said they were currently in the process of renovating the Gashora reception center.

The facility, which has been around for years now, has earlier served as a transit center for Burundi refugees.

The center will be fitted with the perfect housing equipment, blocks for schools, health posts and water, hygiene and electricity.

The evacuations will be on a voluntary basis, he said, adding that the evacuees will have to sign a type of approval undertaking to comply with the host country’s law and culture.

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Kamayirese said Kigali’s offer to host the refugees was notified by appreciating the disastrous condition faced by Libya’s African refugees and asylum seekers.

The arrangement paves the way for Rwanda to be the third nation to receive refugees and asylum seekers from Libya after Niger and Romania.

Fall said they hoped the action from Rwanda would inspire more African nations to do the same.

He said that Libya has an estimated 800,000 African migrants.

Since 2017, UNHCR has evacuated more than 4,400 refugees and asylum seekers from Libya to other nations, including 2,900 through the Niger Emergency Transit Mechanism and 425 through the Romanian Emergency Transit Centre.

The UN organization claims that there are still some 4,700 individuals in detention centers in Libya in dire circumstances and that they urgently need to be transferred to security and protected, lifesaving help and sustainable alternatives.

There are presently around 150,000 refugees in Rwanda.

 

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