Norway this year will take in 600 people evacuated to Rwanda from Libyan detention centres, the Nordic country said as it sought to discourage smuggling refugees across the Mediterranean.
Rwanda, from where more than two million people were displaced amid genocide in 1994, signed a deal with the UN in September to help resettle people detained in Libya trying to reach Europe.
Migrants evacuated to Rwanda have asylum-seeker status there while the UN refugee agency determines their status.
“Norway accepted to receive close to 500 people and Sweden took in seven last month. Others are still waiting,” Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta told a news conference in Kigali.
In a statement to Reuters, Norwegian Justice Minister Joeran Kallmyr said the number for 2020 would be 600, adding that would not increase the overall number of refugees government previously committed to.
As part of a compromise last year in Norway’s four-party government coalition, Kallmyr’s anti-immigration Progress Party agreed to accept 3 000 refugees from UN camps in 2020.
“It’s important to we don’t support cynical people smugglers and instead bring in people who need protection in an organised manner. A transit camp like the one in Rwanda will contribute,” Kallmyr said.
European authorities try to close the route across the Mediterranean that has seen thousands of people die at sea while trying to reach Europe in recent years.
Last year, before the deal was signed, the United Nations estimated about 4 700 people seeking refuge were estimated to be in Libyan detention centres, some run by militias and under siege amid civil war.
People smugglers exploited the turmoil in Libya since 2011 to send thousands of migrants on dangerous journeys across the central Mediterranean, although the number of crossings dropped sharply from 2017 amid an EU-backed push to block departures.