As Britain plans to send its first group of asylum-seekers to Rwanda on Tuesday amid outcries and legal challenges, some who came to this East African country under earlier arrangements tell The Associated Press the new arrivals can expect a difficult time ahead.
“Sometimes I play football and in the evening I drink because I have nothing to do,” said Faisal, a 20-year-old from Ethiopia who was relocated to Rwanda from Libya in 2019 in the first group of refugees resettled under a deal with the United Nations. “I pray daily to God that I leave this place.”
Giving only his first name out of fear of retaliation, he remains at the Gashora center built to house refugees who had languished in Libya while trying to reach Europe. Gashora is called a transit center, but some like Faisal see nowhere to go.
A British court on Monday refused to stop the government from deporting asylum-seekers to Rwanda despite arguments by rights advocates that the planned flights would undermine the “basic dignity” of people escaping war and oppression. The U.K. government’s deportation plan has been widely criticized, including by Prince Charles, according to newspaper reports.
Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and still among the least developed despite its focus on modernizing since the country’s 1994 genocide. The migrants who sought better lives in Britain are expected to find fewer chances to pursue their dreams here, even as Rwandan officials describe their country as having a proud history of welcoming those in need.
One of those who has found a foothold is Urubel Tesfaye, a 22-year-old from Ethiopia who is happy he found a part-time job in a bakery in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. But his friends speak of moving on to Canada or the Netherlands.
“They have a disease in the head and cannot settle here,” he said of their determination to move.
Hundreds of people sent previously to Rwanda under the deal with the U.N. have since been resettled in third countries, according to the U.N. refugee agency. But those sent to Rwanda under the deal with Britain must apply for asylum in Rwanda.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame told diplomats in Kigali after the agreement with Britain was signed in April that his country and the U.K. aren’t engaged in buying and selling people, but instead trying to solve a global migration problem.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel said at the time that “access to the U.K.’s asylum system must be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers.”
Rwandan authorities have said the agreement would initially last for five years, with the British government paying 120 million pounds ($158 million) upfront to pay for housing and integrating the asylum-seekers. Britain is expected to pay more as Rwanda accepts more migrants, although the exact number of people the U.K. is expected to send isn’t known.
Those set to arrive under Rwanda’s new agreement with Britain will be housed in shelters around Kigali with features like private …read more
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