Refugees in Rwanda warn of challenges for arrivals from Britain

KIGALI – While Britain plans to send its first batch of asylum-seekers to Rwanda on Tuesday amid outcry and legal challenges, some who have come to this east African country under previous arrangements tell The Associated Press the newcomers are facing a difficult time becomes.

“Sometimes I play football and in the evenings I drink because I have nothing to do,” said Faisal, a 20-year-old from Ethiopia who was resettled from Libya to Rwanda in 2019 in the first group of refugees to be resettled under an agreement with became the United Nations. “I pray to God daily that I leave this place.”

Fearing retribution, he gives only his first name and remains at the Gashora center, which was built to house refugees languishing in Libya trying to reach Europe. Gashora is billed as a center of transit, but some like Faisal are looking nowhere.

A British court on Monday refused to stop the government from returning asylum-seekers to Rwanda, despite arguments by human rights defenders that the planned flights would undermine the “fundamental dignity” of people fleeing war and oppression. The British government’s deportation plan has been widely criticized, including Prince Charles, according to newspaper reports.


Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and still one of the least developed, despite a focus on modernization since the 1994 genocide. The migrants who sought a better life in Britain are expected to find fewer opportunities here to pursue their dreams, although Rwandan officials describe their country as proud of welcoming those in need.

One of those who has gained a foothold is Urubel Tesfaye, a 22-year-old from Ethiopia who is happy to have found a part-time job at a bakery in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. But his friends are talking about moving on to Canada or the Netherlands.

“They have an illness in their heads and they can’t settle down here,” he said of their determination to move.

Hundreds of people previously sent to Rwanda under the deal with the United Nations have now been resettled to third countries, according to the UN refugee agency. But those sent to Rwanda under the deal with Britain must seek asylum in Rwanda.


Rwandan President Paul Kagame, after signing the deal with Britain in April, told diplomats in Kigali that his country and Britain are not concerned with buying and selling people, but instead are trying to solve a problem global migration Problem.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said at the time that “access to the UK asylum system must be based on need, not ability to pay people smugglers”.

Rwandan authorities have said the deal would initially last five years, with the UK government paying 120 million pounds ($158 million) upfront to pay for the asylum-seekers’ housing and integration. The UK is expected to pay more as Rwanda takes in more migrants, although the exact number of people Britain is expected to send is unknown.

Those arriving under the new Rwanda-UK deal will be housed in temporary shelters around Kigali, which have facilities such as private rooms, televisions and a swimming pool. One, the Hope Hostel, has a security guard patrolling the outside and clocks in the lobby tell the time in London and Paris.


“This is not a prison,” manager Bakinahe Ismail said.

But the gashora center for former comers in a rural area outside the capital offers simpler co-living facilities instead.

“The UK Government, my message to them is that people are people. You can’t tell them “go and stay here” or “go and do this or that”. no Because if they are more comfortable in Britain, then Britain is better for them,” said Peter Nyuoni, a refugee from South Sudan.

“There’s nothing I want to leave here,” he said.

Even those who came directly to Rwanda to escape troubles at home say that while the country is peaceful, it is not easy.

“If you don’t have a job, you can’t survive here,” said Kelly Nimubona, a refugee from neighboring Burundi. “We can’t afford to eat twice a day. There’s no chance of getting a job or selling on the street.” But he described Rwanda as an oasis of order in the region.

Such is sensitivity to the arrival of the first UK asylum seekers that Rwandan officials have banned the media from interviewing the newcomers.


“Maybe later, when they’re settled,” said Claude Twishime, spokesman for the Department of Emergency Management, which will take care of their care.

Rwanda is already home to more than 130,000 refugees and migrants from other African nations and countries like Pakistan, the government said.

The prospect of taking in more has drawn criticism from some in Rwanda. Opposition leader Victoire Ingabire said the government should instead focus on the internal political and social issues that are driving some Rwandans to become refugees elsewhere.

For years, human rights groups have accused the Rwandan government of cracking down on perceived dissent and tightly controlling many aspects of life, from jailing critics to keeping the homeless off the streets of Kigali. The government denies it.

Such tensions are likely to be just below the surface this month when Rwanda hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit. Britain will be the focus there as it continues to face questions about its deal with Rwanda.


Some Rwandans said the local economy is not ready to cope with people arriving from Britain.

“You see, a lot of people are unemployed here,” says Rashid Rutazigwa, a mechanic in the capital. He said he doesn’t see many opportunities, even for people with skills and education.

“But if the government promises to pay salaries to (the migrants), then that’s fine,” he added.


Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Refugees in Rwanda warn of challenges for arrivals from Britain

Sarah Y. Kim

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