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Rwanda inks deal with UNHCR, AU to house refugees, asylum seekers

Written by: Our Reporter
Tuesday, September 10th, 2019, 4:02

In a memorandum of understanding signed in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday, Rwanda has accepted to take in refugees and asylum- seekers held in detention centres in Libya. The agreement was reached with African Union and UNHCR the UN refugee agency. 


According to the agreement, a transit mechanism will be set up where refugees and asylum seekers will be housed before settling them elsewhere or agree to return to their home countries if they deem it safe for them.


"Under the agreement, the government of Rwanda will receive and provide protection to refugees and asylum-seekers who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya," UNHCR said in the statement.


In 2017, Rwanda committed to hosting African migrants after several reports that tens of thousands of migrants mostly from Horn of Africa were stranded in Libya detention centres after failing to link to Europe that resulted in most being sold in modern slave markets.


In the next few weeks, Rwanda will be expecting the first group of 500 people who   include at risk youth, children who are mainly from the horn of Africa which has been marked by insecurities as well as abuse of human rights.


This comes after several reports that indicated migrants go through dire condition which include routine abuse, lack of medical care and lack of enough food in the detention centres across Libya.


"We have been desperately searching for solutions for those people," said Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR's representative to the AU, at a news conference in Addis Ababa, the seat of the pan-African body adding that an  estimated 4,700 refugees are currently in Libyan custody, according to UN.


Chanda noted that a few countries globally are more than prepared to admit refugees.


With this acceptance, Rwanda has been lauded for the kind gesture of sheltering the migrants and note that such as act is a sign of willingness to solve the continents challenges.


"It is a historical moment because Africans are extending their hands to other Africans," said Amira Elfadil, the AU's social affairs commissioner.


According to officials from government, Rwanda is well prepared to take in as much as 30,000 but said it will take them in batches of 500 to avoid the country being overwhelmed.


“The migrants will be housed in facilities that were previously been used for Burundians who flee political crisis in their country in 2015,”said Hope Tumukunde, the Rwandan ambassador to Ethiopia.


The Rwandan government is prepared to take in as many as 30,000 Africans from Libya, though the plan is for the process to unfold in batches of 500 people to prevent the country from becoming overwhelmed.


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