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Deal with London: What Rwanda's Citizens Think of the Asylum Deal

Deal with London: What Rwanda's Citizens Think of the Asylum Deal

As of: March 12, 2024 5:29 PM

Great Britain is still grappling with whether it can deport refugees to Rwanda. Rwandan President Kagame says his country is ready for this. How will deportees be received?

By Antje Diekhans and Dilko Gläßgen, ARD Studio Nairobi

Frank Habineza, a member of the Rwandan House of Commons and leader of the opposition Rwanda Democratic Green Party, said he voted against legislation regulating the deportation of refugees from the United Kingdom to Rwanda in East Africa.

It's not that Habineza is against refugees, he doesn't like the British, because he says, “These people can't decide freely whether to come to Rwanda. They are being forced. It violates their humanity. Rights .” Not many were as outspoken against the government as Habineza was.

Allegations of torture against Kagame

Dictator Paul Kagame has ruled the country with a heavy hand since 2000. Human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have repeatedly accused Kagame of threatening, imprisoning, and torturing opponents. Some critics have already disappeared or died under obscure circumstances.

In 2018, 12 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, including pregnant women, were shot dead by Rwandan security forces while protesting for better food distribution. It was also the reason the European Court of Human Rights stopped the first flight scheduled for deportation from London. The British Supreme Court also did not view Rwanda as a safe third country.

They asked on the street

Unlike opposition politician Habineza, very few citizens in Rwanda dare to express their views openly. Perhaps that's why the general tone on the streets of the capital, Kigali, is positive. One woman is happy about the asylum deal: “We love the guests because they are a blessing. They bring new energy to Rwanda.” According to him, refugees have enough job opportunities.

One man disagrees: “Without creating jobs, more people in Rwanda will end up in disaster.” Unemployment in Rwanda currently stands at 15 percent.

No place in the country?

Habineza also raises the question of space: Rwanda, bigger than Sicily, has 13 million people. Population growth has been phenomenal in the last 30 years and is expected to increase further in the next 25 years, according to UN estimates.

If the United Kingdom now sends thousands of refugees to Rwanda, things will get tighter, Habineza fears: “Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. So we have limited space.”

A concern shared by others: “More people in the country will lead to more population pressure. It will make life more difficult for all of us.” Others, on the other hand, believe that the fears are exaggerated; No country is too small to help people in need.

A building at the end of this street in Kigali (Rwanda) will eventually house deported refugees. There is a division among the people over this.

Rwanda benefits – financially

Great Britain wants to pay the equivalent of 440 million euros to take these people to Rwanda. The money goes to fund Rwanda's economic development. In addition, there is about 175,000 euros per refugee.

A contract that should benefit both parties. Above all, Rwanda can position itself as a reliable partner to the West. Someone in the capital who wants to comment on the issue thinks: “Our government will take money that will benefit the development of our country, for example in infrastructure.”

But another fears that it will do him no good: “I can't imagine that it will do anything in villages where people are struggling to survive.

Profile as a partner

Habineza doesn't believe it either: Of course those who build and provide refugee shelter benefit financially, but the majority of people in Rwanda don't. And not all of them sit well with President Kagame, who has never sought approval for projects in the country. On the contrary, he wholeheartedly assures that he has prepared everything to accept refugees from the United Kingdom. We await the final approval of the British decision-makers. Kagame has already accomplished one thing: putting Rwanda on the world map — as a reliable partner in the middle of a volatile region of the world.

“Rwanda and its government will be hailed as a country of refuge for refugees. We will be more visible and people will know us,” enthuses a resident of Kigali. The goal has already been achieved. The “Rwanda model” has now become a thought game for some German politicians. At the end of 2023, CDU Vice-President Jens Spahn spoke in favor of deporting refugees to Ghana or Rwanda.

A future federal government move to Africa could examine whether an outsourced asylum procedure there is realistic. It is very possible that Rwanda will also be an option in this case.

Antje Diekhans, ARD Nairobi, tagesschau, March 11, 2024 5:49 pm