More than 100 vulnerable refugees, including several babies born in detention centres in Libya, have arrived in Rwanda on a humanitarian evacuation flight organised by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
The group of 116 landed at Kigali International Airport at 2245 last night (Sunday 24 November). They have been taken to a transit facility in Gashora, where UNHCR is providing them with life-saving assistance, including food, water, medical care, psycho-social support, and accommodation.
“As violence in Tripoli intensifies, these evacuations have never been more urgent”, said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean. “But with thousands of refugees still at risk in detention centres and urban areas in Libya, we need States to help us get more refugees out of the country much more quickly.”
The group are mostly from Eritrea, with smaller numbers from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan.
Around two-thirds of the group are under 18 years old, the vast majority of whom have been separated from their parents and wider family. Among the group are two one month-old babies.
The individuals have been given asylum-seeker status while their cases are assessed and further solutions are pursued, including resettlement, voluntary return to countries of previous asylum, voluntary return to countries of origin where safe to do so and local integration in Rwanda.
Around a quarter of the group were evacuated via the Gathering and Departure Facility in Tripoli.Others were evacuated directly from detention centres and urban areas.
Individuals were identified based on assessments of vulnerability. Due to the limited number of available evacuation and resettlement places, efforts are made to prioritise those most in need, often including unaccompanied children, survivors of torture and other abuses, and people in need of medical treatment, amongst others.
A number of additional humanitarian flights out of Libya are planned during the next few weeks.
UNHCR is grateful for support of Libyan, Rwandan and Nigerien authorities, and from the African Union, through the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM). UNHCR also welcomes the recent donation of US$10 million from the European Union towards the Rwanda ETM, helping us move more vulnerable refugees out of Libya and to safety.
Following this evacuation, UNHCR has assisted 2,141 refugees and asylum seekers with solutions out of Libya in 2019 – including the resettlement of 723 individuals. We continue to call for the end of detention of refugees and migrants in Libya as well as more places and faster, more flexible processes to move more refugees away from danger.
Around 4,500 refugees and asylum seekers continue to be held in detention centres in Libya, including people newly-detained after being rescued or intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard. Together with other vulnerable refugees living in urban areas, they remain at risk of being caught up in the continued clashes or being subjected to horrific forms of harm in the hands of smugglers and traffickers in Libya.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
A group of refugees arrive at Kigali International Airport after a life-saving evacuation flight to Rwanda from Libya