Rwanda provided the migrants with asylum seekers’ status while the UNHCR determines what awaits them.
At a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) emergency transit center in the south of the Rwandan capital Kigali, dozens of African migrants are awaiting to be fixed on their fate in the hopes of a brighter future, while others are expected to arrive next month into the country as part of the commitment made by Rwanda to assist African migrants struggling in Libya.
In the center visited by reporters on Wednesday, a group of migrant women from Ethiopia were crying as a translator from the UN agency explained they, in addition to suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, have been evacuated from Lybia but do not want to stay in Rwanda.
“Brighter future is not only resettlement in Europe,” said Elise Villechalane, a UNCHR spokeswoman in Rwanda. “Brighter future can mean, I don’t know, maybe resettlement elsewhere.”
The group in the center is composed of single mothers, unaccompanied children, and families mostly from Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. The hosting country provided them with asylum seekers’ status while the UNHCR determines what awaits.
Rwanda is currently hosting 189 African refugees and asylum-seekers. A first group of 66 people arrived in September and the second group of 123 people arrived in early October from Libya where they were evacuated from detention centers. At least 120 more people are expected to be evacuated next month to the small central African country which had in 1994 more than 2 million of its citizens displaced after being torn apart by genocide.
The UNHCR, who called on other countries to follow Rwanda’s example, said that some 3,000 people are still believed to be detained in Lybia where their rights are daily abused and where the authorities are trying to close the way across the Mediterranean Sea after thousands of migrants died in their bids to reach Europe where they hoped to find a better life.
Migrants told reporters about their failed attempts to reach Europe and about their detention conditions in Libya where they were jailed in dire conditions in underground cells, exposed to violence, sexual abuse, and torture.
“Rwanda is not like Libya but all of us need another step,” said 18-year-old Abdullah Rodwan, from the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. He fled Sudan in 2016 with a group of 300 young men. Many died, either in the desert or at sea, he said.
Rodwan arrived by a UN-chartered plane two weeks ago and said he was anxious about where he might be resettled.
“I hear people say that we might get a chance to live in Africa but, you know, Africa today is good but tomorrow it can easily be bad. That’s why we need a better life somewhere else.