The government of the United Kingdom has signed a deal with Rwanda that could see tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Britain sent to Rwanda for resettlement. The partnership agreement was signed in Kigali on April 14 and presented at a joint news conference by Priti Patel, UK Home Secretary, and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta.
The resettlement program is aimed at stemming the flow of refugees across the English Channel, a route that has remained busy despite Johnson’s Brexit promise in 2016 to take back control of British borders. In a statement after the signing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed “Britain could send tens of thousands of asylum seekers to the East African country of Rwanda, aiming to break people-smuggling networks and stem the flow of migrants across the Channel.”
Johnson cautioned against anyone trying to immigrate to the UK illegally “We must ensure that the only route to asylum in the UK is a safe and legal one,” Johnson said in a speech in Kent, southeast England, where thousands of migrants in small boats landed on Channel beaches last year.
“Anyone who has arrived in Britain illegally since Jan. 1 could now be relocated to Rwanda, which would disrupt the business model of people-smuggling gangs,” the Prime Minister continued.
The British government will contribute an initial 120 million pounds ($158 million) to the fund. As expected, criticism of the agreement has been swift and coming from many directions.
Rwandan opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire said the country was hospitable, but it should first solve its internal problems before considering those of others.
The heads of some international refugee advocacy groups have said the plan violates the principle of granting asylum seekers a fair hearing on British soil, while British opposition lawmakers said Johnson was trying to distract from the renewed calls for him to resign after being fined by police on Tuesday, April 12, for attending a gathering for his birthday in June 2020 when social mixing was all but banned under Covid-19 rules his government had introduced.
According to Rwandan government Spokeswoman, Yolande Makolo, the migrants will be housed temporarily in facilities, generally hostels or hotels, in Kigali while their asylum claims are investigated.
“Once their claims are determined they will be facilitated to integrate into the community,” Ms. Makolo said.
For her part, Home Secretary Patel said that people relocated to Rwanda “will be given the support including up to five years of training, integration, accommodation, health care, so that they can resettle and thrive.”
Patel also called the plan a “joint new migration and economic development partnership,” saying that the UK is “making a substantial investment in the economic development of Rwanda.”