The small hotel in Rwanda’s capital Kigali has twelve toilets, the rooms are small, around ten square meters, there is not much more space here than for the two beds, the shower in the corridor. The few tourists who strayed here and praised the WiFi in particular in the reviews on the Internet paid around 20 euros. For the British government, the humble hostel is the ideal place to start its new program to deport asylum seekers. “Our compassion may be infinite, but our ability to help people is not,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week.
Migrants arriving in the kingdom by boat are set to be shipped to Rwanda soon. There a decision will be made on your asylum application. If the decision is positive, however, they are not allowed to go to Great Britain, but only to stay in Rwanda. In places like the hostel in Kigali, which, of all things, bears the name “Hope”.
The plan immediately sparked widespread outrage, including in Johnson’s own party. More than 160 non-governmental organizations wrote an open letter of protest, calling the agreement “shamefully cruel”https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/.”People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They shouldn’t like Goods are traded and shipped abroad for processing,” said Gillian Triggs, UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner for Refugee Protection. Human rights activists criticized that the agreement violated the right of asylum and the Geneva Convention.
The poor country is to receive 140 million euros for this
Britain claims that by deporting the refugees it is cracking down on smugglers and criminals who often endanger migrants’ lives. Again and again small boats sink when crossing the English Channel. But Johnson also said that the fugitives would incur high costs while they await the outcome of their proceedings in the UK. Rwanda is to receive a lump sum of around 140 million euros for the admission of an as yet undisclosed number of probably only male migrants. The aim is to build accommodation and create training opportunities. In a country that is one of the most densely populated and poorest in the world. A country in which there are already conflicts over the increasingly scarce land.
“How can a richer, bigger country not be able to take in refugees and think they can just dump them in Rwanda because they have money. That’s unacceptable,” said Frank Habineza, leader of the Democratic Green Party in Rwanda . There wasn’t much more criticism from the country because more criticism is not possible there.
Rwanda has been condemned for years because of the autocratic leadership style of its President Paul Kagame and numerous human rights violations. The British government had also shown concern last year “Given the continued restrictions on civil and political rights and media freedom”. Johnson now describes Rwanda as a kind of paradise. An incident from 2018 showed how refugees can fare there: The police arrested more than 60 refugees after they protested against their rations in front of a UN building in Kigali. They were charged with “spreading false information with intent to create hostile international opinion against the Rwandan state”.
According to research by the Kenyan newspaper The East African the first refugees could arrive as early as May. However, there are also many inconsistencies, the costs of deportation are immense, a deportation flight for rejected asylum seekers currently costs more than 10,000 euros per person, Great Britain would have to fly out hundreds, if not thousands, of people against their will.
The Interior Minister’s parents came from East Africa themselves
Not least because of this, there was also resistance to the plans in the British Home Office. Minister Priti Patel spoke happily of a “world premiere”. Patel’s ancestors had once emigrated from India to Uganda, and her parents from there to Great Britain. It is a migration story that would probably no longer be possible with the new agreement. “How could someone whose own family and heritage reflect both the opportunities and pain of migration end up in such a cold, callous basement?” asked Somali commentator Rashid Abdi on Twitter. Patel’s idea isn’t entirely new either.
The Israeli government deported several thousand asylum seekers to Rwanda between 2014 and 2017. When it turned out that almost all of them ended up in the hands of people smugglers and faced slavery on the journey back to Europe, the program was terminated. European countries have also been thinking aloud about asylum centers in Africa for decades. Sometimes it is about resolving the contradiction that asylum seekers cannot apply for asylum where they are being persecuted. Much more often it is about keeping refugees and migrants away from Europe.
French President Emmanuel Macron planned asylum centers in Niger and Chad, but they did not get beyond the test phase. In Rwanda, Europe is already funding refugee centers to take in migrants who ended up as slaves in Libya en route to Europe. Most recently, in 2018, the EU proposed establishing so-called “regional disembarkation platforms” to which migrants could be quickly returned.
Other African countries oppose such a trade
The African Union rejected this plan. Its member countries usually have little interest in stopping the flow of refugees to the north. Most of the time, those who are dissatisfied and who have gotten on the nerves of the political elite leave. Now they live abroad and even send home money that keeps some economies alive. Not least because of this, countries like Kenya and Ghana refused to sign an agreement with Great Britain.
The situation is different with Kagame, he has recently come under increasing pressure because of the murder of opponents and the suppression of almost all opposition, with the agreement he ultimately buys himself free, at least from Johnson’s government he can no longer expect criticism. Kagame is in the process of developing the dirty services for Europe into a business model.
In Mozambique, Rwandan soldiers are fighting Islamist terrorists far from home, who are mostly just dissatisfied residents of the northern part of the country. There, the French energy group Total is building a 20 billion euro project for the production of natural gas, from which the residents benefit little or not at all. That is why they are rehearsing the uprising that is now being put down by Rwanda. In return, the government in Paris has promised investments in Rwanda. From there, too, there should be little criticism in the future.