Despite the controversies, Rwanda prepares to welcome immigrants expelled by the United Kingdom

“As part of our partnership, some of those coming to the UK illegally will be relocated to Rwanda where they can settle and rebuild their lives.” It was announced to great fanfare, on April 14, 2022, by the then British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, on the occasion of the signing of the controversial agreement between London and Kigali for an amount of 120 million pounds sterling (about 135 million euro). .

But a year on, no UK asylum seekers have yet flown to Rwanda. The first plane, scheduled for June 2022, was canceled at the last minute by decision of the European Court of Human Rights. in a measure “temporary worker” AND “urgent”, the ECHR invoked the need to wait for the British justice system to confirm the legality of the agreement between both countries. This was validated by the High Court in London in December, but now a group of immigrants have filed an appeal that must be considered by the Court of Appeal.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers. The British government sees the first asylum flight to Rwanda canceled due to lack of passengers

Many associations spoke out against this agreement at the time it was signed, as did the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It had been estimated that this would lead to “serious risks of violations” of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and that “the minimum components of a reliable and fair asylum system” missing in Rwanda.

However, Rwandan authorities continue to prepare to receive deportees from Britain. For a year now, the funding allocated by London to Kigali at the time the agreement was signed has made it possible, in particular, to prepare, renovate and reserve some hotels identified as transit residences for asylum seekers.

Residence projects under construction.

The rooms of the Hope Hostel, for example, an establishment in the Kagugu district that was supposed to welcome the first group of immigrants in June before their flight was cancelled, continue to be rented by the authorities to be available at all times. “At the administrative level, everything is ready. “We can accommodate up to 500 people at a time, starting tomorrow if necessary”says Alain Mukuralinda, deputy government spokesperson.

In March 2023, the UK and Rwanda even renewed their commitment during an official visit by British Home Secretary Suella Braverman to Kigali. “We signed an addendum to the MEDP [Partenariat sur la migration et le développement économique, acronyme en anglais] that will expand support measures for people transferred to Rwanda »he declared without further details during a joint press conference on March 18, together with Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta.

Also read: Immigration: British justice validates the plan to expel asylum seekers in Rwanda

After the presentation in June of transit housing where immigrants must stay while their asylum files are studied, Suella Braverman visited, during her two-day stay in Kigali, new residence projects under construction. Among them, Bwiza Riverside Estate, on the heights of the Karama district, west of the capital and whose initial phase of 240 homes should be completed in June.

The project plans to take in Rwandan families with modest incomes, but also immigrants from the UK for permanent settlement, once the country has accepted their asylum application. “This is an example of the types of houses that will be built so that immigrants can live with Rwandans and integrate as well as possible into the community”explains Alain Mukuralinda.

The British Court of Appeal must rule

“I sincerely believe that this partnership between two allies will lead the way in finding a solution to the migration crisis that is humane, compassionate, just and equitable.” insists the British minister during her press conference in Kigali, criticized during her trip for not having invited certain media, such as the BBC or The Guardian, criticism of his immigration policy. In Kigali, a year after the agreement was signed, the few opponents still question its relevance.

Also read: Rwandan President Paul Kagame defends deportation of illegal immigrants from the UK to Rwanda

“These refugees did not choose to come to Rwanda and there are many aspects to take into account on a humanitarian and economic level. Immigrants will have more opportunities in the UK. In Rwanda, we still have challenges for the employment of our youth. “The UK should therefore assume its responsibilities, rather than delegating them to a third country.” underlines Frank Habineza, deputy of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.

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So when will the partnership between the two countries be effectively established? Before any possible departure of migrants to Rwanda, the British Court of Appeal has yet to rule during hearings scheduled from April 24. “If the court decision is favorable to us, we plan to deliver the content of the agreement as soon as possible.” stressed Suella Braverman in Kigali.

Jamie Franklin

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