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Rwanda agrees to take in 500 African migrants trapped in Libya

September 11, 2019 at 08:41 am | News

Theodora Aidoo

Theodora Aidoo | Staff Writer

September 11, 2019 at 08:41 am | News

Migrants and refugees are assisted by members of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, as they crowd on board of a rubber boat sailing out of control at 34 kilometers (21 miles) north of Sabratha, Libya, on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. European Union leaders are poised to take a big step on Friday in closing off the illegal migration route from Libya across the central Mediterranean, where thousands have died trying to reach the EU, the EU chief said. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Rwanda has agreed to take in hundreds of African refugees and asylum-seekers being held in detention centres in Libya.

This is contained in an agreement reached by the government of Rwanda, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the African Union (AU).

A joint statement announced on Tuesday 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 said it will continue to pursue solutions for the evacuees.

“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. Some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities,” the joint statement said.

In the coming weeks, evacuation flights are expected to begin and this will be carried out in co-operation with Rwandan and Libyan authorities. 

Some 4,700 people are currently estimated to be held in dire conditions inside detention centres in Libya.

Rwanda had earlier said it could take as high as 30,000 when talks about evacuation began.

There are at least 641,398 migrants who originated from more than 39 countries currently present in Libya. They were identified in all 100 municipalities, within 565 communities, according to the 25th round of the International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Metrix (DTM) data collection, which took place in March, April and May 2019.

Out of the total number of migrants identified, 602,282 individuals (94%) originated from 28 different African countries while 38,897 individuals (6%) came from 10 Asian and Middle Eastern countries. The remaining 219 individuals were recorded as of unknown nationality or other countries of origin.

At least 21 African nationalities were identified in Libya during this round. Out of the African nationals identified, 417,117 originated from Sub-Saharan countries. Fifty-five percent of Sub-Saharan migrants were identified in the West. The region of Tripoli hosted 20% of the Sub-Saharan migrants identified in Libya. Thirty-one percent of the Sub-Saharan migrants were identified in the South, mainly in Murzuk and Sebha. The remaining 14% were identified in the East mainly in the region of Ejdabia, which hosts half of the Sub-Saharan migrants identified in the East.

In 2017, CNN uncovered a very worrying development in Libya, where migrants were auctioned like ornaments.

“Not a used car, a piece of land, or an item of furniture. Not “merchandise” at all, but two human beings,” CNN wrote of the heartrending discovery.

First Lieutenant Naser Hazam of the government’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency in Tripoli told CNN that although he had not witnessed a slave auction, he acknowledged that organized gangs are operating smuggling rings in the country.

“They fill a boat with 100 people, those people may or may not make it,” Hazam says. “(The smuggler) does not care as long as he gets the money, and the migrant may get to Europe or die at sea.”

“The situation is dire,” Mohammed Abdiker, the director of operation and emergencies for the International Organization for Migration, said in a statement after returning from Tripoli in April. “Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages.”

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