Since the start of the Mediterranean crisis in 2014, UNHCR has been at the forefront in efforts to assist the most vulnerable, including relocating them to safe and secure places outside Libya. Given the severity of the humanitarian and security situation in Libya and the difficulties faced by UNHCR teams in Libya to implement UNHCR’s protection mandate in this conflict zone, UNHCR has repeatedly called on the international community to assist with moving vulnerable refugees out of Libya to safety. In early 2019, as part of UNHCR’s advocacy efforts to save lives, the UNHCR HC reached out to the President of Rwanda, H.E. Paul Kagame, who on 23 November 2017 had made a generous offer to host up to 30,000 migrants stranded in Libya. By mid-May 2019, the GoR confirmed its readiness to welcome both refugees and Asylum seekers evacuated from Libya under the framework called the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM), which already existed in Niger and Romania. On 10 September 2019, Rwanda signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UNHCR and the African Union to rescue refugees and asylum-seekers from Libya. Under the MoU, UNHCR in collaboration with the GoR and the AU established an Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Gashora Sector, Bugesera District, Rwanda to support up to 500 persons of concern (at any given time) to be evacuated from conflict zones, including detention centres in Libya, while continuing to search for durable solutions. This centre was established in 2015 in response to the influx of Burundian refugees fleeing insecurity in their country. Around 30,000 Burundians have transited through this camp so far.
In 2019, following the signature of the MoU, Rwanda had received three flights supporting the evacuation of 306 refugees and asylum seekers prior to evacuation from Libya, more than half of them were in detention centers. Almost two years later, ETM Rwanda has successfully conducted, in total, five evacuation flights from Libya to Rwanda, bringing the number of evacuees to have benefited from the ETM Centre, to 515 persons.