UK minister arrives in Rwanda on ‘publicity stunt’ trip to discuss deportation deal


British Home Secretary Suella Braverman arrived in Rwanda on Saturday to discuss an agreement between the two countries to deport asylum seekers coming to the UK to the east African country.

The talks come as the UK faces legal challenges and sharp criticism from campaigners over the deal, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame is under international pressure over his government’s support for the M23 rebel group, which is accused of carrying out summary killings and repeated rapes in the republic. Democratic. the Congo.

Braverman will meet Kagame on her first visit to Rwanda, and said that getting rid of migrants could be put into action soon. The president of Rwanda is also under pressure from the United States to produce, try and convict Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of the Hollywood movie. Hotel Rwanda.

‘This trip is another publicity stunt to keep the British government’s tough intentions, rather than its actual failures, in the news’

Zoe Gardner, migration policy expert

The UK agreed to deport thousands of migrants and refugees more than 4,000 miles away to Rwanda as part of a $146m deal last year, but no flights have been successful as the policy is being challenged in the courts.

The partnership is a major part of Britain’s plans to detain and deport asylum seekers arriving on small boats across the English Channel, campaigners of a proposal which Middle East Eye described as “inhumane and unworkable”, added that it would criminalize the efforts of thousands of refugees.

Earlier this week, ten asylum seekers from a range of countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria won permission in a British court to challenge the UK’s Rwanda policy.

The 10 are threatened with transfer to Rwanda. They argue that the government has failed to assess the dangers and risks of deporting them there, with the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR warning of Rwanda’s poor record in protecting refugees. The United Nations also called the new British asylum bill a “clear violation” of international law.

Fatal journeys

Many people who travel to Britain to seek asylum come from the Middle East. They make the dangerous journey by boat after paying professional smugglers – first from North Africa or the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, and then from the north of France to the south coast of England.

One Iraqi refugee told MEE his eight-day boat passage from Turkey to Italy was the “worst experience of my life”.

Most migrants and refugees make these journeys because of conflict in their home countries, political repression, climate disaster or economic hardship. Many have family in Britain, or other ties to the country.

When they arrive in the UK, the British government pays for them to be housed in hotels, detention centers or other facilities while their asylum claims are processed. This can often take years and asylum seekers are not allowed to work during this time.

‘If I wanted to go to Rwanda, I would go to Rwanda. I know the way to Rwanda’

Kurdish asylum seeker from Iran

One Kurdish refugee from Iran, speaking to MEE last summer at Napier barracks in Kent, said: “If I wanted to go to Rwanda, I would go to Rwanda. I know the way to Rwanda.”

Sonya Sceats, director of Freedom From Torture, told MEE that Suella Braverman was “flying on a demo boat trip to Rwanda in the same week that the Court of Appeal accepted that there are serious questions to be answered about the legality of this government cash. Rwanda scheme for people”.

Zoe Gardner, an expert on migration policy, called Braverman’s visit to Rwanda “another publicity stunt to keep the British government’s cruel intentions, rather than its actual failures, in the news”.

Gardner said the real impact of the British government’s asylum bill is “no more than sending a few people to Rwanda”.

“It will trap thousands of refugees in permanent limbo, homeless or locked up in massive penal colonies in our communities, or forced into the shadows at the mercy of criminal gangs,” Gardner said.

“Rather than pushing through this inhumane and unworkable policy,” said Sonya Sceats, “ministers should focus on establishing safe routes to the UK and tackling the unacceptable backlog of asylum claims, so that people fleeing war and persecution can rebuild their lives with dignity.”

Diplomatic support for Rwanda

Both the UK and Rwandan governments have tried to focus on what British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calls “breaking the business model of criminal people smuggling”.

Speaking to MEE in December last year, Yolande Makolo, Rwandan government spokesperson, said Rwanda was “ready to offer asylum seekers and migrants safety and the opportunity to build a new life in Rwanda”.

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Makolo told MEE that because of Rwanda’s recent history – hundreds of thousands of people died in the country’s devastating genocide in 1994 – the African country was “committed to protecting vulnerable people around the world”.

“We already offer asylum to more than 130,000 refugees from different countries,” said Makolo.

Rwanda plays a significant military role in its region, as a sponsor of the M23 militia in eastern Congo and as a supplier of counter-insurgency forces to Mozambique, the Central African Republic and Benin.

An Amnesty report in February found that “Ruan-backed M23 rebels summarily killed men and raped many women in eastern PDC in late November 2022”.

“Kagame is under international pressure because of his government’s sponsorship of M23 in eastern Congo,” Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential, told MEE.

“But he made his government useful to France by protecting French oil interests in Mozambique and to Britain by reaching a monetary agreement on asylum that no African country was willing to sign.”

Rwandan military personnel are protecting workers for the French oil company Total in Mozambique. The UK tried to reach a similar asylum agreement with Ghana and Kenya, but both rejected it.

Andrew Mitchell, the British foreign affairs development minister who has long been a strong supporter of Rwanda, is known not to be in favor of Braverman’s asylum deal. Mitchell is expected to be in the Congolese capital Kinshasa next week.

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