“As part of our partnership, some of those who arrive in the UK illegally will be relocated to Rwanda where they can settle and rebuild their lives,” announced with great fanfare, on April 14, 2022, the then British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, at the time of the signing of the controversial agreement between London and Kigali for the amount of 120 million pounds sterling (some €135 million).
But a year later, no asylum seeker from the UK has yet flown to Rwanda. The first plane, scheduled for June 2022, was canceled at the last minute by a decision of the European Court of Human Rights. In a measure ” temp worker “ And “urgent”, the ECHR invoked the need to wait for British justice to confirm the legality of the agreement between the two countries. This was validated by the High Court in London in December, but now an appeal has been filed by a group of migrants and must be studied by the Court of Appeal.
Many associations protested against this agreement when it was signed, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This had estimated that it would lead to “serious risk of violations” of the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and that “the minimum components of a reliable and fair asylum system” are lacking in Rwanda.
Nevertheless, the Rwandan authorities continue to prepare to receive the arrivals deported from Great Britain. For the past year, the funding allocated by London to Kigali at the time of the signing of the agreement has made it possible in particular to prepare, renovate and reserve certain hotels identified as transit residences for asylum seekers.
Residential projects under construction
The rooms of the Hope Hostel, for example, an establishment in the Kagugu district which was to accommodate the first group of migrants in June before the cancellation of their flight, are still rented by the authorities in order to remain available at all times. “At the administrative level, everything is ready. We can accommodate up to 500 people at once, starting tomorrow if necessary”assures Alain Mukuralinda, deputy government spokesperson.
In March 2023, the UK and Rwanda even renewed their commitment during an official visit by UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman to Kigali. “We have signed an addendum to the MEDP [Partenariat sur la migration et le développement économique, acronyme en anglais] which will expand support measures for those transferred to Rwanda”she said without further details during a joint press conference on March 18, alongside the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta.
After the presentation in June of the transit accommodation where migrants must be accommodated during the study of their asylum files, 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 to the west of the capital and whose initial phase of 240 houses should be finalized in June.
The project plans to welcome low-income Rwandan households, but also migrants from the United Kingdom for permanent settlement, once their asylum application has been accepted by the country. “This is an example of the types of housing that will be built so that migrants can live with Rwandans and integrate better with 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 humanitarian, 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 its migration policy. In Kigali, a year after the signing of the agreement, the few opponents are still questioning its relevance.
“These refugees did not choose to come to Rwanda and there are many humanitarian and economic aspects to consider. Migrants will have more opportunities in the UK. In Rwanda, we still have challenges for the employment of our youth. So the UK should take its responsibilities, instead of delegating them to a third country,” emphasizes Frank Habineza, deputy of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.
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So when will the effective establishment of the partnership between the two countries be established? Before any potential departure of migrants to Rwanda, the British Court of Appeal must still rule in hearings scheduled from April 24. “If the court decision is in our favor, we plan to deliver the content of the agreement as soon as possible,” underlined Suella Braverman in Kigali.