Unrest spreads as Rwanda prepares for British migrants to arrive

Hope Hostel in Rwanda has been ready to take in unwanted migrants from the UK for 664 days.

Now, after the British Parliament approves the bill, the Rwandan government hopes to fill these echoing rooms and halls within weeks.

Rwanda has largely been watching the legal dispute in Britain over controversial plans to deport asylum seekers to the East African country.

A British court has drawn attention to Kigali’s human rights record by calling for more protection for those sent there.

Meanwhile, Rwanda has been making detailed preparations for their arrival since June 2022, two months after the agreement was signed.

Manager Ismael Bakina gives us a tour of a spooky vacant hostel in the capital, Kigali. Bedrooms are carefully laid out and outfitted with details such as prayer rugs and toiletries.

Gardeners are trimming hedges on a lush property that boasts a soccer field and basketball court, while cooks and cleaners are busy completing surreal tasks.

There are also tents lined with chairs waiting for asylum claims of migrants to be processed in Rwanda. Even if you do not meet the qualifications, you are still eligible to obtain a residence permit. Or they may try to go to another country, but may not be able to return to the UK.

Bakina told me that the hostel is ready to open soon.

“Even if they arrive today instead of tomorrow, we can respond,” he says. “We are 100% ready.”

Apartments at the Hope Hostel

Hope Hostel is eerily empty, but the Rwandan government hopes to fill the rooms within weeks. [BBC]

From the hostel’s windows, you can see the rolling hills of Kigali’s tidy district. It is a beautiful city with an orderly streetscape and safe from crime. “Rwanda works” is the country’s motto.

While some new arrivals may seek work here, opinions vary on whether Rwanda needs new workers.

“I think it’s good for the country economically,” said Emmanuel Kanimba, a restaurant owner in Kigali.

“We also know that they provide human capital, produce goods and services, and consume them. [Then there are the] They may bring new ideas to our economy. ”

“But where are you going to find jobs for these people?” another man asks. “We ourselves have graduated, but we have not secured a job yet. We are looking for a job.”

He did not want to be identified as speaking out against government policies, reflecting a wave of fear in the country.

Critics of this planCritics of this plan

Some critics of the system are afraid to voice their dissenting opinions. [Phil Davies/BBC]

There are widespread suspicions that authorities are suppressing dissent. Critics include human rights bodies, opposition parties and, as of 2021, an assessment by the UK Foreign Office.

Victoire Ingabirean outspoken opposition figure who was once imprisoned for endangering national security, used his case to argue that asylum seekers were being treated badly.

“These are people who have fled their countries because of poverty, war and dictatorships in their countries,” she told the BBC.

“And they will come to a country where they will face the same problems, where they won’t be able to express themselves freely and won’t have the happiness they seek in Britain.

“I don’t understand why the British government would absolutely want to send these people to Rwanda.”

The Rwandan government strongly denies this.

Parliament then passed legislation that addressed the UK Supreme Court’s concerns. This included approving the ratification of a recent treaty with the UK that strengthens protections for asylum seekers, including guarantees that they will not be returned to their country of asylum.

"Our domestic law is very clear about the right to protest, and it is protected in certain circumstances."Source: Doris Uwicyeza Picard, Source Description: Director, Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership Coordination Unit, Image: Doris Uwicyeza Picard, Director, Migration and Economic Development Partnership Coordination Unit, Government of Rwanda "Our domestic law is very clear about the right to protest, and it is protected in certain circumstances."Source: Doris Uwicyeza Picard, Source Description: Director, Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership Coordination Unit, Image: Doris Uwicyeza Picard, Director, Migration and Economic Development Partnership Coordination Unit, Government of Rwanda

I asked Doris Wicieza-Picard, head of the UK deal, whether migrants could criticize the government or stage protests if they wanted.

“Our domestic law is very clear about the right to protest, and it is protected under certain circumstances,” she said.

“If they want to protest peacefully within the confines of the law, we welcome them.”

However, he added, “We need to remember that refugees in general, and their political activities, are limited by the Refugee Convention.”

Rwanda welcomes other asylum seekers and often cites a transit center south of Kigali as evidence of its ability to care for them.

This is a camp run by the United Nations refugee agency for Africans trapped in Libya on their way to Europe.

This is a temporary shelter for vulnerable people while they consider their next steps. They may choose to settle in Rwanda. Fares Luyoumbu, the camp’s director, says no one is.

“I can’t find a job here.”

Daniel Dew is grateful to be here after a harrowing experience. He is a tall, thin young man from South Sudan with 11 brothers and sisters who left his village to find work to help take care of his family.

Mr Due said he had attempted to cross the sea from Libya to Italy seven times and ended up in prison each time he was deported.

He now has his sights set on North America.

“You can’t find a job here,” he says.

“After spending five months here, I don’t have a lot of work to do. But I always pray very hard that I get a chance to escape from Rwanda.”

When I asked him how he would feel if he had been sent here after going to Europe, he took a deep breath and said he hoped God would protect him from that.

For the migrants in our transit centers and those yet to come, this is all about seeking a better future. Will Rwanda be a detour, a dead end, or a new home for them?

Details of the UK-Rwanda asylum agreement:

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