DrAsylum seekers who Britain wants to deport to Rwanda may face a tough time. At least that’s what the refugees and migrants already there believe. “Sometimes I play football and in the evening I drink because I have nothing to do,” Ethiopian Faisal told The Associated Press. The 20-year-old was resettled from Libya to Rwanda in 2019 under a UN agreement. “I pray daily for him to leave this place.”
Faisal, who declined to give his last name, lives in the Qeshoura center for refugees stranded in Libya on his way to Europe. Qusora is described as a transit hub, but people like Faisal see no way out here.
The British government wants to deport migrants to Rwanda who have entered illegally as stowaways or in small boats across the English Channel. Their asylum applications are processed in Rwanda and, if accepted, they can stay there. Those affected are legally defending themselves, and the plans have been widely criticized, including, according to newspaper reports, by the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles.
“You can’t feel at home here”
Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries on Earth – yet it is one of the least developed. Despite efforts to modernize the country since the 1994 genocide. Immigrants looking for a better life in Britain may find fewer opportunities to pursue their dreams here, although officials have boasted a proud history of welcoming those in need.
Among those who have gained a foothold here is 22-year-old Ethiopian Aubel Tesfaye. He is happy to have found a part-time job at a bakery in the capital, Kigali. But his friends are talking about moving to Canada or Holland. “They have a disease in their head and they can’t settle here,” he says of their determination to leave Rwanda.
According to UNHCR, hundreds of people who were transferred to Rwanda under the UN convention have been resettled in other countries. But those who enter the country under the British agreement with Rwanda must apply for asylum immediately.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame said after signing the agreement in April that the two countries did not want to buy and sell people, they wanted to solve the global migration problem. British Home Secretary Priti Patel said at the time that access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need, “not the ability to pay traffickers”.
Security patrols outside
According to Rwandan information, the agreement will initially be implemented for a period of five years. The British government is paying 120 million pounds (about 140 million euros) up front to house and integrate asylum seekers. This number is expected to increase with the number of immigrants arriving. However, it is not known how many people will be sent to Rwanda in total.
Those coming to Rwanda under the new agreement will be accommodated in accommodations around Kigali, with facilities such as private rooms, televisions and a swimming pool. In one of these places, Hope lodged, the security service is patrolling outside. Clocks in the lobby tell the time in London and Paris. “This is not a prison,” said Principal Pakina Ismail.
On the other hand, the Qashoura center for those who had previously arrived in rural Rwanda, is simpler. Peter Newoni, a refugee from South Sudan, said his message to the British government was that they were human. You can’t tell them where to go, where to stay and what to do. “If they feel better in the UK, the UK is better for them,” he said. “There is nothing here that makes me want to stay here.”
Despite the peace in Rwanda, it is not easy even for those who came directly to Rwanda to escape the conditions prevailing in their homeland. “If you don’t have a job, you can’t live here,” said Kelly Nimbobona, a refugee from neighboring Burundi. “We can’t eat twice a day. There is no way to get a job or sell anything on the street.” But he described Rwanda as an oasis of order in the region.
Ban interviews for arrivals
The sensitivities surrounding the arrival of the first asylum seekers in the UK are so great that the media are barred from interviewing them. “Maybe later, when they are settled,” said Claude Tuchem, a spokesman for the emergency department, which will be responsible for the arrivals.
According to the government, Rwanda is already home to more than 130,000 refugees and migrants from other African countries and states such as Pakistan. The idea of receiving more people has met with some criticism in the country. Opposition leader Victoire Ingabier said the government should instead focus on the internal political and social issues that turned Rwandans into refugees in other countries.
For years, human rights groups have accused the Rwandan government of suppressing perceived dissent and controlling many aspects of life, imprisoning critics and driving the homeless off the streets of Kigali. The government denies this. Such tensions are likely to worsen below the surface at this month’s Commonwealth meeting.
Some Rwandans say the economy is not ready to accommodate the British people. Many people are out of work, said Rashid Rutazegua, a mechanic in Kigali. He doesn’t see many opportunities, even for people with special skills and training. “But if the government promises to pay salaries (for immigrants), that will be fine.”