Skip to main content
Emergency Trust Fund for Africa
News article17 November 2020

ETM Rwanda: EU support helps UNHCR to bring fresh hope to a young refugee

Evacuation from Libya, for Beza, meant that she was provided a chance to live again.
UNHCR/ Rediet Hirpaye

Story by Eugene Sibomana and Rediet Hirpaye

“Libya does not look at gender, both men and women suffer. The only difference is that men get beaten and tortured, while women get beaten and raped”, recalls Beza Yimesgen*, an 18-year-old Ethiopian refugee currently living in the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) Gashora.
Due to the life-threatening and discriminatory prejudice they faced, Beza Yimesgen* left her country of origin as a baby with her late mother in a bid to save their lives. When Beza’s mother passed away having lived in Sudan for much of her life, Beza was once again filled with confusion about her safety and future.

Beza’s family friend made a deal with a smuggler during this period, when she was just 15 years old, to send her off to Libya. On her journey to Libya, Beza survived horrific experiences, including human trafficking, rape, and torture. “Any bad thing that can happen in my life cannot equal my inhumane experiences on the road to and in Libya,” she said.

In September 2019, the Government of Rwanda generously stepped forward to host a transit facility in Gashora. Since then, this Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Rwanda is enabling UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency to save the lives of some of the most vulnerable refugees and asylum- seekers in Africa. Beza was fortunate enough to be part of the group of refugees evacuated, from Libya to the Gashora ETM in Rwanda in 2019.
UNHCR made a global appeal for funding to the ETM, and the European Union (EU) was among the first supporters to respond by contributing more 14.5 million USD (12.5 million Euro) from the EU Trust Fund for Africa. This contribution allows UNHCR to pursue life-saving evacuations, to accommodate and provide critical protection services and humanitarian aid including among others food, water and sanitation, medical care, and psycho-social support to the evacuated refugees.

“The European Union and its member states are among the largest partners of UNHCR globally, but also to the Rwanda Operation. Their remarkable contributions to the ETM program in Rwanda, as well as the generous resettlement pledges clearly demonstrate a genuine humanitarian commitment to the refugee cause. I would like to commend the EU for helping us make a new start, new hopes for these vulnerable refugees,” said Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR Representative in Rwanda.

In the current situation with escalating conflicts and the COVID19 threat adding to the humanitarian crisis, EU support to the UNHCR’s response in the ETM Rwanda has become more important than ever.

During a recent visit to the ETM, the EU Head of Delegation to Rwanda, Ambassador Nicola Bellomo noted, “The ETM is the result of generous leadership and solidarity and provides an African solution to an African problem. The objective is to provide a safe transit mechanism to rescue refugees and asylum seekers stranded in Libya held under dire conditions, including detention. The EU and its member states are proud to support the ETM, which offers protection and lifesaving assistance while continuing to search for durable solutions, including resettlement to third countries.”

Evacuation from Libya, for Beza, meant that she was provided a chance to live again. “I was so happy, my heart was beating so fast, I could not believe it until I got on the plane,” she said.

Currently, Beza is awaiting resettlement to Canada where she hopes to start her new life. The young Ethiopian dreams of having her own business one day. “I always imagine matching different clothes and styling myself, I can just imagine how great it would be to do that for other women and make them feel good”.

Since September 2020, UNHCR has evacuated 306 vulnerable refugees [including new-born babies, unaccompanied minors, and women] from risk and abuse in Libya and brought them to safety in Rwanda. This is possible thanks to the generous support from the European Union and EU member states. Helping them to reach a safe country like Rwanda and resettling some of these refugees in Europe is a fantastic gesture of solidarity. It gives them a chance to rebuild their lives in safe and stable countries offering plenty of opportunities.

*Name changed for protection reasons.


Publication date
17 November 2020
Region and Country
Strengthening resilience of communities
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Programmes in the region