500 refugees trapped in Libya to be evacuated to Rwanda

PARIS (AP) — Rwanda agreed Tuesday to take in 500 refugees and asylum-seekers trapped in Libya under an agreement signed with the United Nations and African Union.

The accord comes after repeated allegations of dire conditions for migrants in Libya’s detention centers, including beatings and other abuses, rape and a lack of both medical care and food. Many are intercepted in the Mediterranean by the EU-funded Libyan coast guard, which itself has been the repeated focus of abuse allegations.

The U.N. says its own center for migrants and refugees in Tripoli is becoming dangerously overcrowded as is its center for evacuees in Niger. The U.N. says around 4,700 people are being held in Libyan detention centers and around 1,000 in its facility in Tripoli.

Evacuation flights to Rwanda are expected to begin in the coming weeks. Under the deal, Rwanda would accept an initial group of 500 people who agreed to leave Libya, mostly from the Horn of Africa, and they would be housed in a center 60 kilometers (37 miles) outside the capital, Kigali.

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Rwanda, however, has a troubled past with refugees. In 2018, according to Amnesty International , Rwandan soldiers fired on protesting Congolese refugees, killing at least 11.

Babar Baloch, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, said the world body is asking members to contribute to the Rwanda evacuation, with hopes it can be expanded beyond the initial 500 people.

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