The Rwandan government is making plans to receive hundreds of African migrants from Libya and give them work permits. The country is working with Libya so that migrants looking for greener pastures across the Mediterranean can be given a refreshing chance for a better life and more opportunities.
The plan was first proposed by President Paul Kagame in October 2017 when CNN uncovered the story of African migrants in Libya who were auctioned off like slaves.
Thousands of African migrants make the spirited attempt to cross the Mediterranean via Libya to Europe in search of better lives. They come from countries ravaged by abject poverty, conflict and war. In the process, many are caught by smugglers who who force them to work for little to no money at all. Youths are sold for $400 in what is an appalling phenomenon to the world. Smugglers hold the migrants for ransom, and if the family cannot pay to secure their release they are then sold off at different prices depending on their qualifications.
The European Union (EU) has been investing heavily in preventing migrants from reaching Europe by training the Libyan coastguard. The migrants that are caught by the coastguard are sent off to detention centres where there are reports of rampant human rights violations and other deplorable conditions not suitable for human existence. It is alleged there are multiple cases of rape, torture and other crimes at the facilities, some of which are run by militias.
In the wake of this, the Rwandan government has taken it upon itself to give refuge to the migrants in Libya. Rwanda and Libya are carving out a plan so that migrants held up in detention centres can be evacuated to Rwanda. This emergency plan is being forged in collaboration with international humanitarian agencies and the EU. In 2017, Kagame proffered the proposal that 30,000 migrants be evacuated to Rwanda over a period of several years.
Diyana Gitera, director-general for Africa at Rwanda’s foreign ministry said that the "emergency transit mechanism" with funding from the EU and the UN would involved her country accepting 500 migrants from Libya. She did not reveal details as to whether the plan is being mapped out on a temporary or permanent basis.
This is a welcome development in addressing the migrant crisis, which Europe has come under fire for being too strict. It also illuminates the idea that African leaders need to care more about the welfare of their citizens so that these problems are not acute.
Some critics argue that the evacuation plan is not the way to tackle the migrant crisis, and that it just "outsources" the problem to another country.
Marwa Mohamed, head of advocacy for Lawyers for Justice in Libya, said that the only viable long-term solution is for Europe to open more channels and pathways to migration. These include resettlement or temporary working visas.
She said, "If you provide them with these legal routes, they don’t need to submit themselves into the hands of people smugglers and traffickers."
Header image credit - Face2face Africa