Rwanda accepts 144m Pounds to take in Britain’s refugees


The UNHCR and human rights groups have voiced their opposition to a deal signed bewteen London and Kigali that would see thousands of illegal migrants in the UK resettled in Rwanda, or returned to their country of origin.  

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said to it was “strongly opposed” to the UK’s plan to send illegally arrived asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Following the deal signed by British Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta in Kigali, the UNHCR’s assistant high commissioner for international protection, Gillian Triggs, said “people fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy”.

She added: “They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.”

€144 million deal

Speaking from Dover, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda, saying that from now on anyone who entered the UK illegally – as well as those who have arrived illegally since 1 January – could now be relocated to Rwanda. 

“Our compassion may be infinite, but our ability to help people is not,” Johnson added. 

Rwanda, a tiny, landlocked country of 13 million people with a bleak human rights record, already hosts some 133,000 refugees. This is five times the number per capita than Britain. 

The agreement with Rwanda, which will be funded by the UK to the tune of €144 million, will see the migrants – whose nationalities and arrival conditions have not been specified – “integrated into communities across the country”, a statement issued by Kigali said.

‘Cowardly’ and ‘ill-conceived’

Rights groups say refugee “outsourcing projects” – such as Australia’s arrangements with Papua New Guinea and Nauru – have proved expensive, leading to mass detention and exacerbating human trafficking. 

Steve Valdez-Symonds, director of refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International UK, denounced the deal as a “scandalously ill-conceived idea” that would “cause suffering while wasting huge amounts of public money”. 

He also highlighted Rwanda’s “dismal human rights record“.

Meanwhile, Refugee Action executive director Tim Naor Hilton called the deal a “cowardly, barbaric and inhumane way to treat people fleeing persecution and war”.

Political opposition  

For their part, Rwanda’s opposition have voiced their anger at the deal, saying western powers should “own up to international obligations on migration issues”.

The leader of Rwanda’s DALFA-Umurinzi party, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, said Kigali should solve its own socio-political failures that force Rwandans to leave their homeland before hosting refugees from other countries.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda agreed, saying wealthy countries such as Britain shouldn’t be using their “money and influence” to enforce their will on others. 

With its high population density and internal conflicts over land and resources, taking in migrants from the UK will increase the land burden and survival challenges Rwanda already faces. 

Legal challenges expected

In the UK, the political opposition has also denounced the “inhumanity” of the project.

Even within the ranks of the ruling Conservative Party, critics have called the deal a “huge attempt to divert attention” from Boris Johnson’s “Partygate” setbacks.

The British Parliament is, meanwhile, set to pass a law that could allow for the creation of centres abroad to deport migrants while their applications are processed or authorise the coastguard to push migrant boats out of British waters.

The UNHCR says the law, if passed, would contravene the Geneva Refugee Convention, to which the UK is a signatory.

Meanwhile, Johnson said he was anticipating legal challenges to the deal from what “politically motivated lawyers”.