Rwanda: A Closer Look At the Three Options for Asylum-Seekers From Libya

Sixty-six asylum-seekers from Libya Thursday last week jetted into Rwanda.

According to a statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the refugees will be given a number of settlement solutions, including integration into the local community, resettlement in a third country, or even being repatriated to their own home countries.

The New Times talked to Elise Laura Villechalane, the External Relations Officer at UNHCR Rwanda, to shed more light on the options.

Option 1: Resettlement in a third country

Villechalane explained that the asylum-seekers have the option of being taken to a third country.

This alternative includes two things: one is resettlement.

The UNHCR defines resettlement as the selection and transfer of refugees from a State in which they have sought protection to a third State that has agreed to admit them.

There is a list of resettlement countries which sometimes accept people based usually on vulnerability and protection criteria. Such countries include Canada, Australia, some European countries, and the USA.

So, some of the asylum-seekers may find themselves in such countries, but Villechalane said that the UNHCR would screen them to see who is eligible.

But each resettlement country has its own regulations and procedures with respect to resettlement, and may consider submissions on a dossier basis or conduct individual resettlement interviews.

Resettlement also has the possibility of the asylum-seekers to settle in the first country of asylum.

For the case of the asylum-seekers from Libya, they might have gone to another country where they were recognised as refugees. This is their first country of asylum and they can have a chance to go and settle there.

The other determinant for resettlement in another country is family reunification. An asylum-seeker may have family members in another country, and this gives them a chance to apply for resettlement in that country in order to join their family.

She said that it is particularly important for UNHCR to trace the family for those who are minors.

"We had 26 minors (among the asylum-seekers who came to Rwanda from Libya); I think 22 of them were unaccompanied. So we are working closely with the other countries where UNHCR has a presence (to trace their families)," she said.

"We want to find their parents and family members, and we want them to be re-united with their families."

Option 2: Repatriation to their country of origin

This option depends on the stability in their country, and also their consent to go back.

The situation that forced these people to flee should have been stabilised and their safety no longer at risk for them to go back.

"In many cases if they want to be repatriated, they will voluntarily ask for it and then UNHCR will do an assessment to see if the conditions in their country of origin are suitable for return; and if they are, then we can support them to go back," Villechalane said.

Option 3: Integration into the local community

For the asylum-seekers who are not eligible for any of the first two options or are not interested in any of them, they may find a new home in Rwanda.

This would be done in accordance with the Rwandan law.

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