Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that asylum seekers seeking to enter the UK illegally will be sent to Rwanda.
In fact, the small country of 13 million people, according to the United Nations agency overseeing the issue, provides them with regularization and work permits to pursue a “policy open to refugees” and economic integration. Today there are about 130,000 people in this situation, most of them from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, many of whom have lived in the country for decades.
However, in practice, access to these rights is not easy. In the refugee camps where 90% of this population lives, there are infrastructural problems, especially for the elderly, whose families have grown over the years without any change to accommodate them.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has endorsed Boris Johnson’s plan. “Although Rwanda has generously provided safe havens for refugees fleeing conflict and persecution for decades, most live in camps with limited access to economic opportunities,” Assistant High Commissioner for Defense Gillian Trix said in a statement from April 14.
According to Trix, rich countries need to support the immigrants Rwanda is already harboring, not turning others into “their goods”.
Refugees in the country have also been affected by alleged human rights abuses by President Paul Kagame’s government. In 2018, at least 12 Congolese were killed by police outside the UNHCR office. They were living in the Kisiba camp, which had a population of 17,000 at the time, and protested against reducing the food quotas they received.
According to the international human rights watchdog (HRW), police opened fire on protesters, injuring several others and arresting 60 for crimes such as rebellion and “spreading false information to create anti-government international opinion.”
“Rwanda has well-known records of illegal executions, suspicious deaths in custody, illegal or arbitrary detention, torture and misdemeanors, especially against critics and protesters,” the report said.
The British government itself acknowledges that Kagame, a former rebel leader who overthrew the regime that led to the country’s 1994 genocide and has been in power for 27 years, disregarded human rights and insisted on adhering to “democracy and the rule of law.” A speech in Geneva on January 2021. The UK, incidentally, has been providing asylum to Rwandans who have fled political trouble in Kigali.
The persecution of deported dissidents is another point raised by critics of the UK proposal. According to the HRW report on the human rights situation in Rwanda in 2021, “the government and its allies are putting pressure on Rwandan immigrants in Australia and Canada.”
“Rwanda has routinely shown little interest in the protection of refugees under international law,” Luis Madz, director of HRW in Central Africa, told AFP.
The group claims that refugees who criticize Kagama have been threatened and tortured, and that some of them have been abducted and forcibly returned to Rwanda, where they have disappeared or died.
A well-known example is Paul Ruspakina, who told the story of protecting Tutsi ethnic citizens during the genocide in the movie “Hotel Rwanda”. Kagamin’s critic says he was abducted in Dubai and flown to Kigali on a private plane, where he was arrested on terrorism charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Carine Kanimba, the daughter of Rusesabagina, who was deported to Belgium, appeared on a list released by Amnesty International in July last year of alleged spying on Pegasus by Rwandan authorities. The list includes more than 3,500 activists, journalists and politicians who, according to the organization, have hacked their cell phones in and out of Rwanda.
Opposition politicians have expressed concern over the high number of refugees in the densely populated country, which is already facing economic problems caused by land shortages and epidemics.
The Rwandan government denies allegations of human rights abuses and defends the treaty with the United Kingdom. Announcing the partnership, President Vincent Bruda said the country’s recent history “has a deep connection with the plight of those seeking security and opportunity in the new land” and that those who come there will be “protected, respected and empowered.” You have to.
Speaking at an event this Friday (22), Paul Kagame declared that his government was not “trading people”. “It’s not like that, please. We really help,” he said, describing the deal as a turning point.
The president argued that Rwanda had already received refugees detained in Libya under an agreement with the African Union and UNHCR. “When the question came up, I said, ‘Well, we’re not a rich country, we’re not a big country, but there are solutions. We can always help, find and solve big problems.’
Boris says there are some details on how the deal will work in practice, which is intended to make life more difficult for criminal organizations that traffic people. The move by Conservative Party voters opposed to immigration policies elected him to carry out the Brexit process in 2016. Corruption of parties held in his office during locked periods.
The United Kingdom owes the Rwandan government an initial 120 million (R $ 738 million), but analysts point out that Kagame’s motivation for accepting the deal is high in the diplomatic arena – one way or another. Obtaining international relevance. And, who knows, getting a strong ally to face criticism of human rights abuses, including those of their own exiles.
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