Rwanda, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the African Union (AU) reached agreement Tuesday to evacuate refugees out of Libya.
Under the terms of the deal, Kigali will receive and provide protection to refugees and asylum-seekers who are currently being held in detention centres in in the North African country.
Children and youth at risk are among the first group of 500 people, predominantly from the Horn of Africa, expected to be evacuated in the coming weeks.
“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,” UNHCR said.
Some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by local authorities.
Evacuation flights are expected to begin in the coming weeks, with the AU providing political support and the UNHCR offering protection services and necessary humanitarian assistance including food, water, accommodation, education and healthcare.
UNHCR said it has evacuated more than 4,400 refugees and asylum-seekers out of Libya to other countries since 2017, including 2,900 through the Emergency Transit Mechanism in Niger and 425 to European countries through the Emergency Transit Centre in Romania.
However, an estimated 4,700 people are still being held in dire conditions in detention centres in Libya.
They urgently need to be moved to safety and to be provided with protection and lifesaving assistance, UNHCR said.