LThe reactions of indignation have multiplied since the signing, on Thursday April 14, of a controversial agreement between Rwanda and the United Kingdom that provides in general terms that London can send some of its asylum seekers – who arrived illegally on its territory – to Rwanda. In exchange for the financial aid, Kigali has agreed to host these immigrants, until their file is processed, and possibly to integrate them into the country. International human rights organizations are on a war footing. They denounce a subcontracting of the migratory issue.
For months, Boris Johnson and his government have been seeking to close agreements with third countries to send migrants to while they wait to process their file. Rwanda and Ghana had been mentioned, but Accra flatly denied in January that it was in talks with the UK on the issue.
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A country that dreams of becoming a welcoming land
In Rwanda, this announcement also provoked strong reactions. For many observers, this agreement with London represents both a political and economic opportunity for the Kigali authorities. For Rwandan officials, it is also a question of image. Rwanda is not a country that spontaneously comes to mind when the issue of migrants is mentioned. And yet, the country has a long experience in dealing with the issue of refugees and resettlement. Rwandans are particularly aware of this. At one time, Rwanda was marked by exoduses, before becoming, in the 1990s, one of the world’s largest contributors of refugees. President Paul Kagame himself grew up in a refugee camp in Uganda. Therefore, the country has logically adopted a welcoming approach.
The small state of 12 million already hosts more than 130,000 refugees not only from the Great Lakes region, but also from Afghanistan, Libya and recently displaced Ukrainians. “Meeting the migration challenge is a shared responsibility of Africa, Europe and the international community. Every young African or migrant from other places should be able to lead a dignified, productive and safe life on the African continent”, justifies the government as Africa seeks to make its voice heard on the global migration crisis.
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A complex agreement to implement
For newcomers, who decide to stay, Kigali promises the automatic right to work, to establish businesses, to access all available services, including mutual health insurance; In short, newcomers will be invited to become part of the Rwandan community. “From day one, migrants will be offered investments in human capital,” the government says. However, the implementation of the agreement, whose initial duration is five years, seems complex and expensive. For now, it has been disclosed that in exchange for theThe Rwandan government will receive 120 million pounds sterling (144 million euros)with the possibility of increasing these amounts if the program proves to be a success. “But above all, Rwanda is a safe and secure country, with respect for the rule of law and clearly a variety of institutions that have evolved and developed over time. And, with that, you have to see the skillful way in which Rwanda has already secured the resettlement of almost 130,000 refugees from various countries,” British Home Secretary Priti Patel said from Kigali.
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Rwandan opposition concerned
The Rwandan opposition wants to make its voice heard on this issue. “The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda supports the reception of refugees who have chosen Rwanda as their first destination, but not those who have chosen to go to the United Kingdom or other European countries. We believe that rich countries, including the United Kingdom, should not stray from their international obligations,” said Frank Habineza, president of this party, on Twitter. Especially because “Rwanda already has a fairly dense population, there is no longer enough land for everyone, there will be competition for natural resources,” he says. Welcoming immigrants from Britain will only further accentuate this land issue, posing daily challenges and risks creating conflict between Rwandans and immigrants.”
The same story on the side of the opposition Victoire Ingabire, from the Dalfa Umurinzi party (the Development and Freedom for All party). “Rwandan authorities should focus on addressing the political and social issues that lead Rwandans to seek refuge abroad before offering to ‘receive refugees or immigrants from other countries,’ read a statement released on Thursday. “Rwanda always It has been classified among the safest countries in the world, but at the same time it is a country where its inhabitants are not happy. »
Words that reinforce the concern of some Rwandan and international organizations about the future of the future beneficiaries of this project. Indeed, the question that arises is: can Rwanda be considered a safe country? The organization Human Rights Watch is very severe: it judges that “the British plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is cruel and ineffective, but also very likely illegal”. Furthermore, UNHCR said in a statement issued on Thursday: “Rwanda’s deplorable human rights record is well documented. […] Indeed, the UK has directly communicated its human rights concerns to Rwanda and granted asylum to Rwandans who have fled their country, including four in the last year.
Precedents with Israel and negotiations with Denmark
This is not the first time that African states have been offered such an offer. Rwanda has also already signed such an agreement with Israel and Uganda in 2014. In fact, the country has welcomed asylum seekers rejected by Israel for several years, many of whom then tried to reach Europe, warn international organizations. The experience was going to be repeated in 2017, but, in the face of public outcry, the project was quickly buried.
Since 2019, the country has hosted a transit program, managed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in collaboration with the African Union, which evacuates migrants detained in Libya. Most of them are from East Africa, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia and are being treated temporarily in Rwanda while they wait for their cases to be examined by Western countries. According to the OECD, in a note published in 2018, in collaboration with the International Labor Organization and the EU, although the contribution of immigrants to the Rwandan economy is relatively small, it is growing. And, unlike many other developing countries, immigrants in Rwanda are, on average, better educated and work in more productive sectors than the native population. The authors of the analysis estimate that “immigrants contribute more in taxes than they receive in government benefits, which has a positive effect on the budget balance.”
Denmark recently began talks with Kigali to outsource asylum claims, but this time the African Union stepped in. ” Such attempts to curb migration from Africa to Europe are xenophobic and completely unacceptable,” the institution said last August, as Danish parliamentarians debated the bill, launched by the Social Democratic government.. « LAfrica has much to show the world as it continues to generously bear the burden of 85% of the world’s refugees, often in protracted situations, while only 15% are hosted by developed countries. » The AU argued the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Rights of Refugees, to which Rwanda is a signatory. It indicates that asylum seekers can only be returned to a third country that, according to an official agreement, guarantees that their rights will be preserved and that they will not have to change their country again.
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