Rwanda and the United Kingdom say they remain committed to the UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership despite legal challenges that led to the grounding of the first flight that was scheduled to arrive in Kigali this Wednesday.
A last-minute injunction by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday meant that the plane could not take off Tuesday as planned and the UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said that the development will not deter the country from doing the right thing.
“It is very surprising that the European Court of Human Rights has intervened despite repeated earlier success in our domestic courts. These repeated legal barriers are similar to those we experience with other removals flights and many of those removed from this flight will be placed on the next.
“We will not be deterred from doing the right thing and delivering our plans to control our nation’s borders. Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now,” the UK Home Secretary said.
Earlier in the day, the Government of Rwanda had said it remains ready to welcome the first batch of migrants from the UK before the first flight was cancelled.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, the Rwandan Government Spokesperson, Yolande Makolo, said that Rwanda and the UK are determined to make the UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership work and become a solution to the global crisis.
Makolo, who was flanked by other senior government officials, said that Rwanda, which is home to over 130, 000 refugees from different countries, has proved that it can welcome many other refugees.
“We’re partnering with the UNHCR and the African Union to bring migrants who were stranded in Libya to safety in Kigali. Over 1,000 migrants have passed through this centre, many have been relocated to other countries.”
“This is just an illustration of Rwanda’s commitment to protecting refugees & vulnerable people around the world -a principle which always governs our international policy,” Makolo said, reiterating the country’s commitment to receive migrants from the UK.
The Government Spokesperson dismissed fears of safety peddled by rights groups and refugee charities, stating that it is not the first time Rwanda will be receiving refugees or migrants and they have always felt safe in the country.
“When the first flight lands here in Kigali, the new arrivals will be welcomed and will be looked after and supported to make new lives here. We will provide support with their asylum applications, including legal support and translation services,”
“We will provide decent accommodation and look after all their essential needs. We also want to make it clear that if people apply for asylum in Rwanda and their claim is rejected, through the process that we will have here, they will still have a pathway to legal residency in Rwanda and we welcome people from everywhere,” Makolo said.
She noted that the new arrivals will be free to come and go as they please and if they choose to leave Rwanda, which is one of the options, they will be supported to travel to their country of origin or a safe third country where they have a legal right to stay.
“We do hope they chose to stay with and following the footsteps of so many who have made Rwanda their home and have flourished here,” she said.
Makolo reiterated that the UK-Rwanda partnership builds on Rwanda’s record of caring for refugees and welcoming migrants.
“We will be able to provide not just a safe haven these people are looking for but the opportunity to build new lives here and develop alongside Rwandans,” she said.
Making it work
Makolo pointed out that Rwanda is doing it for the right reasons and that the country has the experience of being a welcoming place for people living in precarious conditions.
She described the partnership as an “Innovative program” that’s intended to address the global migration crisis causing untold suffering to so many and enriching criminals.
“We are determined to make this work. We understand that there might be opposition to this but we are asking that this programme be a given a chance because it’s a solution,”
“There are not many solutions. People are suffering, the asylum system is broken. It’s being taken advantage of by criminal gangs that are exploiting people, making false promises. People are risking their lives in these dangerous crossings,”
“Something has to give and we are happy to be working on this solution with our UK partners,” Makolo said.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Emergency, Philippe Habinshuti said that measures have been put in place to ensure that the arrivals get socio-psycho support on arrival, including counselling, to ensure that they transition well into the new setting.
“They won’t be in a detention centre. They will have different options on arrival and we are ready to support them throughout the process,” Habinshuti said, adding that they will be free to embark on the process and make personal decisions on whether to stay in Rwanda, go back to their home countries or facilitated to go to a third country.
The Government Spokesperson said that there are a lot of misconceptions around the partnership regarding the safety in Rwanda but the claims are mainly unfounded and not backed by facts.
“We were expecting migrants from all over the world, people coming from countries with conflict, some may have been persecuted from where they are coming from, or maybe they are coming from countries that don’t have opportunities and we think that a lot of them have a misconception about what Rwanda is like and what Africa is like and to be quite honest some of these are perpetuated by media that does not reflect the reality of our countries,”
“We will give them an opportunity to see what it’s like to live in this country. We do not consider living in Rwanda as a punishment. We don’t think anyone should,” Makolo said.
The Government Spokesperson also responded to the Church of England which has described the partnership with Rwanda as ‘immoral’, pointing out that there is nothing immoral in what the two countries are doing.
“We don’t think it’s immoral to offer a home to people, something that we have done here for more than 30 years and we’re doing this for the right reasons. So, people may have their own opinions about what this program is like, depending on where they come from,”
“But from where are we coming from, we’re doing this for the right reasons. We want Rwanda to be a welcoming place and we’ll do our best, to make sure that the migrants are taken care of, and that they’re able to build a life here,” Makolo said.