Rwanda, UK Officially Announce Partnership on Migration

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta, sign the partnership agreement in Kigali on Thursday. Photos by Moses Niyonzima/KT Press.

Rwanda and the United Kingdom have officially announced a deal that will see the latter relocate immigrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda, a partnership that has been touted as the first of its kind and one that will provide a global solution to the global migration crisis.

Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta and UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, officially announced the partnership dubbed the ‘Rwanda-UK Migration and Economic Development Partnership, in Kigali on Thursday.

The two officials reiterated that the partnership was informed by Rwanda’s recent history, which shows that the country has a deep connection to the plight of those seeking safety and opportunity in a new land – this has shaped the country’s approach to migration and asylum issues.

Dr. Biruta and Patel signed the agreement which will see the UK fully fund the process of relocating asylum seekers, in a dignified and empowering manner. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said that Rwanda has a strong record of providing safety to those fleeing danger.

“Rwanda already provides refuge for almost 130,000 refugees from multiple countries – including neighbours like the DRC and Burundi, as well as Afghanistan and migrants evacuated from Libya – this proves Rwanda’s commitment to protecting vulnerable people around the world, a principle which always governs the  international policy of the Government of Rwanda,” Dr. Biruta said at a press conference in Kigali.

Dr. Biruta said that Rwanda is already working with international partners to support those fleeing conflict and natural disasters – the country is a signatory to the African Union’s Kampala Convention – a continent wide initiative to provide protection to internally displaced people.

“The Government of Rwanda is pleased to confirm a bold new partnership with the United Kingdom, which will take an innovative approach to addressing the global migration crisis.  A broken migration and asylum system is failing to protect the vulnerable, and empowering criminal smuggling gangs at an immeasurable human cost,” Dr. Biruta said, a point which was reiterated by the UK Home Secretary.

The two senior officials addressed the press after the announcement.

The two countries say the partnership addresses the roots of the crisis by tackling the global inequalities of opportunity that drive economic migrants from their homes causing unsustainable levels of demand on the system. The UK, through the Economic Transformation and Integration Fund, will invest in Rwanda’s
economic development – creating professional and personal development opportunities for migrants and Rwandans alike, and rebalancing the inequalities at the heart of the global migration crisis.

Home Secretary Patel that among other things, the arrangement will prioritize the dignity and empowerment of migrants while their safety and security will be
ensured while in Rwanda, a country which she said is consistently ranked one of the world’s safest nations.

“Deep global inequalities are driving millions of people from their homes in search of opportunity, at the same time as millions are forcibly displaced by conflict, persecution, and other threats to safety. This has created immense demands on the immigration systems of many countries, including the UK,” a joint statement issued by the two countries reads.

“This situation has driven vulnerable people to place their lives in the hands of criminal smuggling gangs, resulting in countless tragedies. The partnership will address this urgent humanitarian crisis by tackling its roots. By relocating migrants to Rwanda and investing in personal development and employment for migrants, our nations are taking bold steps to address the imbalance in global opportunities which drives illegal migration, while dismantling the incentive structures which empower criminal gangs and endanger innocent lives,” it adds.

Both Biruta and Patel said that the new partnership will disrupt the business model of organised crime gangs and deter migrants from putting their lives at risk. Once they arrive in Rwanda, migrants will be integrated into communities across the country. The officials did not put a timeline on when the first batch will arrive in Rwanda.

Minister Biruta reiterated Rwanda’s commitment to the partnership, saying that it is an opportunity for asylum seekers to benefit from a robust protection system as well as a comprehensive human capital investment program that it will create, for migrants and for development of the host country.

“There is a global responsibility to prioritise the safety and well-being of migrants, and Rwanda welcomes this partnership with the United Kingdom to host asylum seekers and migrants, and offer them legal pathways to residence. This is about ensuring that people are protected, respected, and empowered to further their own ambitions and settle permanently in Rwanda if they choose,” Dr. Biruta said.

Dr. Biruta said that Rwanda is committed to receiving and protecting the asylum seekers.

The UK Home Secretary praised Rwanda for its contribution towards addressing the refugee crisis across the globe, affirming that the country’s track record in hosting refugees is proof that the partnership will work out well.

“The global migration crisis and how we tackle illegal migration requires new world-leading solutions. There are an estimated 80 million people displaced in the world and the global approach to asylum and migration is broken. Existing approaches have failed and there is no single solution to tackle these problems. Change is needed because people are dying attempting to come to the UK illegally,” Patel said.

“Today we have signed a world leading migration partnership with The Rwandan Government which can see those arriving illegally into the UK by dangerous methods relocated to Rwanda to have their claims for asylum considered and, if recognised as refugees, to build their lives there – helping break the people smugglers’ business model and prevent loss of life,” she said.

Under the programme, they will be entitled to full protection under Rwandan law, equal access to employment, and enrolment in healthcare and social care services. Furthermore, the UK’s upfront investment of £120 million will fund invaluable opportunities for Rwandans and migrants including
secondary qualifications, vocational and skills training, language lessons, and higher education.

 




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