Africa: AU Looks to Extend Agreement With Rwanda to Host Asylum Seekers From Libya for More Time

The African Union (AU) hopes to engage Rwanda, asking it to renew the agreement signed to host stranded African migrants evacuated from Libya.

Signed in September 2019, the two-year-deal saw Rwanda agree with the AU and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to establish a transit mechanism within its territory to act as a temporary home for African asylum seekers who were trapped in Libya, after their attempts to illegally sneak into Europe via the Mediterranean Sea failed.

Ever since, the country has hosted up to 515 persons under the program who have been arriving at different times, as the UNHCR made effort to fly them in.

Currently, 235 of them were resettled in other countries like Norway, Canada, France and Sweden.

On Saturday, March 2021, Amira Elfadil, AU's Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development visited the Emergency Transit Mechanism where they are hosted in Bugesera district, in the Western Province of the country, and as while speaking to journalists, she expressed the AU's desire to extend the deal for some more time, as it is set to expire in September this year,

"We are still in need of bringing-in stranded African migrants, and give them opportunities of being resettled in Europe and other places. Our work is not yet done. We will look into how to extend the Memorandum of Understanding, because we still this service and this facility (the transit mechanism). We have thousands and thousands of stranded migrants who need to be looked after," she said.

Speaking of Rwanda's willingness to extend, Olivier Kayumba, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Emergency Management (MINEMA) told media that government will assess AU's request when is sent to them, and he does not expect it to be turned down,

"If there is a request to extend the agreement, we are going to assess it and then respond. So far, I don't think that we can refuse it," he said.

Elfadil appreciated government's efforts to take care of the asylum seekers,

"I am really pleased with the level of services I found here. The spacious camp, the health services, water, sanitation, food - basic needs provided," she said.

Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR's Representative to the AU also added his voice to Alfadil's in appreciation of Rwanda's efforts, and on a special note hailed government's decision to include the refugees among the priority groups that got vaccinated against Covid-19 in the first phase of the campaign.

Meanwhile, Alfadil said the AU is looking at durable solutions to the problems of its citizens that are always trying to sneak into Europe illegally,

"My intention and that of the AU is to assist member states create more opportunities here in Africa so that our young people can have their ambitions at home, instead of embarking on risky journeys abroad," she said.

She said the AU is working on a protocol to allow free movement of persons among its member states, which, along with the Continental Free Trade Area can increase opportunities within the continent,

"If we manage to bring this protocol (free movement of persons) into force, it will allow Africans to travel freely within Africa. We also have the Free Trade Area which is an opportunity for Africans to trade with each other, share services, have better mobility of goods. This can create a better atmosphere in Africa," she said.

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