Rwanda says UK is ‘hysterical’ over migrant plan

A Kigali government spokesman said after the High Court in London ruled on Wednesday that criticism of Rwanda’s participation in the resettlement agreement for asylum seekers with the United Kingdom was “unfair” and “hysterical.”

Yolande McCullough said Newsweek In an exclusive interview, there is still hope in the plan, which has served as a flagship in the ruling Conservative Party’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration to the UK before the next parliamentary election due by January 2025. Power since 2010 – is set to suffer a historic defeat.

“It’s very clear that the debate is hysterical, and we’re being drawn into it,” McCullough said of this week’s developments. “We know that a lot of it is not really about us because some of these people don’t even know where Rwanda is on a map. It’s really an internal UK issue, which is understandable because it’s a big challenge for them.”

“For Rwandans, there is no real debate,” McCullough said. “It’s a bold, and perhaps controversial, thing for the UK to do with the local audience. We’re used to welcoming people here. But we also want to show that Africa is also a place of solutions, not problems.”

A group of human rights organizations and pro-migrant charities have mobilized against the Rwanda plan, with a recent joint statement signed by 140 organizations denouncing the proposal as “cruel and immoral.”

Royal National Lifeboat Institution staff help migrants disembark from a lifeboat in the United Kingdom on June 15, 2022. The Conservative government has pledged to tackle the number of illegal immigrants arriving in the country by boat.
Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

The five-year deal, worth about $170 million to Rwanda, was initially announced in April 2022. It will allow the UK to send asylum seekers to the East African country where their claims will be processed. Asylum seekers can then be granted refugee status to remain in Rwanda, apply to settle there for other reasons, or seek asylum in another “safe third country”.

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The Conservative government has gradually shifted to the right on the immigration issue since the Brexit vote in 2016. It said that “anyone entering the UK illegally” after 1 January 2022 could be sent to Rwanda, without any restrictions. Or a condition. Limit on numbers.

So far, no asylum seekers have been sent, with the first flight planned for June 2022 blocked by legal challenges.

the The Supreme Court said On Wednesday, there were “strong reasons to believe that asylum seekers would face a real risk of ill-treatment due to forcible return to their country of origin if they were deported to Rwanda,” referring to the possibility of refugees returning to the countries in which they live. He may be in danger.

The ruling noted that Rwanda had joined the UK Convention in good faith and provided guarantees regarding the safety of asylum seekers transferred there. Chief Justice Robert Reid said the ruling was not political and reflected British law and the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

But Makolo said Kigali considers the ruling political and “unjustified.” She added: “I relied very heavily on… [U.N. refugee agency] Alleged concerns, which they had not discussed with us before, but they were happy to work with us on several programs and described our open-door policy as “exemplary.”

“I think we were drawn into this a little unfairly,” McCullough added. “It is not Rwanda in the dock. We are not on trial here. We are providing a home for people; and we are doing it for the right reasons… Some Rwandans are a bit surprised that we were attacked in Rwanda.” “The way we were attacked in the media.”

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Makalu confirmed that new treaty talks are now underway with the British government, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak planning emergency legislation to classify the African country as a “safe country.”

A crowd outside the Supreme Court building in London, United Kingdom
A crowd gathers outside the High Court in London after it ruled that a plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was illegal on November 15, 2023. A Rwandan government spokesman said the decision was “political.”
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Reports this summer claimed that Rwandan facilities designated to receive asylum seekers are inadequate. Makolo said that Kigali does not intend to run the project “cheaply,” citing Rwanda’s role in receiving African refugees transferred from Libya under a European Union-backed agreement signed with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2019.

“We want to do it right,” she said. “People should have decent housing. People should have a fair chance to build a decent life here… We are ready to continue to explain what we are doing, to continue to advocate for the way we want this country to grow.

“The UK will invest resources in the programs we have, in the services we have here, so that we can receive migrants and process their asylum claims. We have our own asylum system, which we have scaled up since we signed this partnership. We will be able to process These claims.

“People who get refugee status will then be able to live, work and go to school here and live among Rwandans. There will be no detention centers or migrant prisons or migrant pens; nothing like that. The way we see this is that migrants will come to Here, after an initial welcoming stay, they will be integrated into Rwandan society.

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This week’s delay raises the possibility that no flights to Rwanda will depart before the next British parliamentary election, which is due to be held by January 28, 2025. Sunak – who has been the fifth Conservative leader since 2016 – is far behind Labor rival Keir Starmer in the election. . The election.

Burning with its leaders, struggling to address myriad economic challenges, and mired in infighting, the party faces its first general election defeat since 2005. So far, the Conservatives’ “Stop the Boats” immigration campaign has done little to do the trick. Just a little to move the compass.

Rishi Sunak at a Downing Street press conference
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks on November 15, 2023 in London. Sunak’s plan for Rwanda was set back again by a Supreme Court decision this week.
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Sunak said this week that his government’s proposal on Rwanda would not be derailed.

“We will remove the remaining barriers and flights will begin in the spring as planned,” the Prime Minister said on Wednesday.

The Labor Party has expressed its public opposition to the Rwanda Plan from its inception. “Rishi Sunak wasted £140m of taxpayers’ money on his illegal scheme in Rwanda,” Starmer wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday. In October, the former human rights lawyer said he would reverse Rwanda’s policy if he won office in the next election, even if flights were already transporting asylum seekers.

McCullough said Kigali is focused on the task at hand. “We will see as we go forward,” she said when asked if the Rwandan government had any hope that a future Labor administration would continue with the project.

The spokesperson added: “We have no control over what happens locally in the UK.” “We will maintain our side of this partnership.”