The Rwandan government, the United Nations refugee agency and the African Union on Wednesday agreed to jointly evacuate refugees from Libya, where some 4,700 people are currently detained in dire conditions, UNHCR said in a statement.
Under the agreement, the Government of Rwanda will receive and provide protection to refugees and asylum-seekers held in facilities in Libya. They will be transferred to safety in Rwanda on a voluntary basis, the statement said.
Evacuation flights are expected to begin in the next few weeks, and will be organised in co-operation with Rwandan and Libyan authorities, according to the statement.
A first group of 500 people, predominantly from the Horn of Africa, will be airlifted out of Libya, including children and vulnerable youths. After their arrival in Rwanda, UNHCR will continue to seek long-term solutions for the evacuees, the statement added.
Permanent solutions may include resettlement to third countries, help to return to countries where asylum had previously been granted, or to home countries if it is safe to do so. Some of the evacuees may be given permission to remain in Rwanda if the country's authorities agree, said the statement.
The African Union will give help with evacuations, strategic political support with training and coordination, and help to mobilise resources. UNHCR will provide protection services and necessary humanitarian assistance including food, water, accommodation, education and healthcare.
UNHCR has evacuated more than 4,400 refugees and asylum-seekers from Libya to other countries since 2017, including 2,900 through its Emergency Transit Mechanism in Niger and 425 to European countries through its Emergency Transit Centre in Romania.
But the nearly 5,000 people still held in Romania urgently need to be moved to safety and to receive protection and life-saving medical assistance, UNHCR underlined.
The UN agency urged nations to help it, Rwanda and the AU to implement the new accord and to help find durable solutions for those evacuated under the agreement.