1st wave of migrants evacuated from Libya heads to Rwanda

Migrants are seen after being rescued by Libyan coast guard in Khoms, Libya August 27, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 26 September 2019

1st wave of migrants evacuated from Libya heads to Rwanda

  • Rwanda agreed to take in 500 people who have been trapped in chaotic Libya
  • The first group of 75 Africans, including women and children, was to arrive in the evening, the United Nations refugee agency said

KIGALI: The first evacuation flight of African refugees and asylum-seekers from wretched Libyan detention centers was expected to arrive in Rwanda on Thursday in an unusual new effort to divert and care for people who failed to reach Europe.
The East African nation’s agreement to take in 500 people who have been trapped in chaotic Libya, at risk of rocket attack and rape, has raised questions and concerns. It is not clear how long they might be held in Rwanda and how free they are to leave.
“Refugees who will wish to stay in Rwanda permanently will be given asylum,” Olivier Kayumba, permanent secretary in the ministry of emergency management and refugee affairs, told The Associated Press. Rwandan officials have said the country is not being paid to take them in.
The first group of 75 Africans, including women and children, was to arrive in the evening, the United Nations refugee agency said. Authorities said the newcomers were in a bad state of health and media access to their arrival was restricted.
The Rwanda option emerged after various European Union-funded efforts to stem the flow of migrants trying to reach Europe via sometimes deadly journeys across the Mediterranean Sea, although the volume is decreasing. The UN migration agency has said more than 45,500 people have arrived in Europe by sea this year, a 30% drop from 2018.
A larger evacuation center run by the UN in the West African nation of Niger along a major migrant route north is now dangerously overcrowded, as is the UN-run center for about 1,000 migrants and refugees in Libya’s capital, Tripoli.
European countries have been at odds over how to handle the steady flow of economic migrants and asylum seekers, and they have faced criticism from some activist groups over the ad hoc approach and the low number of people they accept. Just a fraction of the some 2,900 people who have been evacuated to the center in Niger have found spots in Europe or elsewhere.
At least 6,000 migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and other nations are still locked in dozens of detention facilities in Libya run by militias accused of torture and other abuses. Some of the migrants have been intercepted on the Mediterranean by Libya’s EU-funded coast guard, which itself has been the focus of abuse allegations.
Some of the detention centers are close to fighting between Libya’s armed groups, and in July at least 44 people were killed by an airstrike on one center near Tripoli.
Rwanda offers a holding option far from the well-traveled migrant route.
Its government agreed to take in refugees and asylum-seekers who agreed to leave Libya under a deal signed with the UN and African Union. Most of those set to arrive are from the Horn of Africa, a turbulent region that includes Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Many migrants from those countries also try a separate but perilous route to rich Gulf nations, with some dying at sea off the coast of conflict-torn Yemen.
Those arriving in Rwanda will be housed in a center that already been constructed 60 kilometers (37 miles) outside the capital, Kigali. They will be free to come and go from the center, Babar Beloch, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, has said.
There are hopes Rwanda will be able to take in more than the initial 500 people, he added.
The refugee agency “urges the international community to support this transit center here in Rwanda but also to come forward with similar routes to safety so that we can get people out of harm’s way in Libya,” spokesman Charlie Yaxley said in a statement.


Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

Updated 49 min 59 sec ago

Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

MANILA: Virgilio Estuesta has picked through trash in the Philippines’ biggest city for four decades, and is noticing an unusually large amount of plastics during his daily trawl of about 15 km (9.3 miles).
Tough curbs re-imposed to combat a surge in daily coronavirus infections are squeezing income for the 60-year-old, as many of the junkyards and businesses in Manila that buy his recyclables have been closed since March.
Plastic items, such as bottles and containers, dominate the contents of the rickety wooden cart Estuesta pushes through the deserted streets, far more than metals and cardboard, yet the money they bring in is not enough to get by.
“It’s been really hard for us, it’s been difficult looking for recyclables that sell high,” he said.
“Recently we’ve been seeing a lot more plastics, but the problem is they don’t really sell high.”
Environmentalists say the Philippines is battling one of the world’s biggest problems stemming from single-use plastics, and ranks among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution of the oceans. It has no reliable data for its plastics consumption.
Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said consumers and businesses are now using yet more single-use plastics, in a bid to ward off virus infections.
“The pandemic has really increased plastic pollution,” she added. “Just because there’s a lot more people using disposables now, due to misconceptions and fears around transmitting the virus.”
Since March 16, Manila has experienced lockdowns of varying levels of severity, in some of the world’s longest and tightest measures to curb the spread of the virus.
They are taking a toll on Estuesta, who hopes to start earning soon.
“When you go out, the police will reprimand you,” he said. “I was stuck at home and had to rely on government aid, which was not enough. I had to resort to borrowing money from people.”