Twenty-six of the 66 evacuees who arrived in Rwanda from Libya on Thursday are children, it has emerged.
Almost all of the children are neither accompanied by a parent nor family member, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The youngest member of the group is a two-month old baby born in Libyan detention, the UN agency said in a statement released Friday.
A chattered flight carrying the refugees and asylum seekers touched down at Kigali International Airport at around 9:30p.m local time, before the group headed to a lakeside transit facility in Bugesera District, just outside the capital Kigali.
They are the first batch of the 500 evacuees that Rwanda pledged to receive as part of broader international efforts to rescue thousands of Africans currently in detention camps in the North African country.
In Libya, most of the refugees have endured torture and other forms of abuse following failed attempts to reach Europe via the deadly Mediterranean Sea.
Many of those who managed to embark on the Mediterranean crossing died on the way, while others who were able to cross it faced growing anti-migrant hostility on the other side of the sea.
Among those who arrived in Rwanda yesterday are Sudanese, Somali or Eritrean nationals.
In Bugesera, they were warmly received by government officials, including district Mayor Richard Mutabazi, who was seen in a jovial mood embracing the new residents.
They are hosted at Gashora emergency transit centre under the framework of the Emergency Transit Mechanism.
The evacuation is part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed earlier this month between the Government of Rwanda, UNHCR, and the African Union.
Upon arrival in Kigali, the refugees were registered and provided with documentation, before being taken to Gashora some 60 kilometres south Kigali, where UNHCR provided them with accommodation, food, water, kitchen sets, blankets, mosquito nets and other core relief items, the UN agency said.
“The entire group has been granted asylum-seeker status, pending an assessment of their refugee claim by UNHCR. They have the same rights as other refugees in Rwanda, including access to education and healthcare, and freedom of movement and to work,” a UNHCR statement reads in part.
UNHCR said that a team of nine health professionals, including a psychologist, will work alongside counsellors specialised in working with children and survivors of sexual violence to provide health care and assist the evacuees who survived torture, sexual violence and human rights abuses during their time in Libya.
“All the evacuees will also be invited to attend language and vocational training classes to help them integrate with local communities during their time in Rwanda, whereas further solutions will then be pursued for them, including resettlement for some,” it added.
“Other solutions include voluntary return to countries where they had previously been granted asylum, return home if safe and voluntary, or integration into local Rwandan host communities.”
The Partner via The New Times