The Observer found that Rwandan genocide survivors currently living in a hostel housing asylum seekers sent from the UK under a controversial Home Office plan were sent on a one-day trip to prevent them from disrupting Home Secretary Priti Patel’s visit this month. .
Patel visited a hostel known as Hope House when she was in Kigali to sign a contract with Rwanda. Her visit was carefully managed by both the Rwandan authorities and the Ministry of the Interior to present the plan in the best possible light.
The proposal was widely condemned as inhumane, illegal, impracticable and disproportionately expensive. Critics included conservative MPs and colleagues, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said on Easter Sunday that the plan “would not stand up to God’s judgment.”
The migrants are being transported to Dover by British Border Forces after trying to cross the English Channel last week. Photo: Ben Stansall / AFP / Getty Images
UK asylum seekers will be housed in Hope House, a facility built to provide safe accommodation and a “new family” for 150 to 190 young people orphaned during the 1994 genocide, which killed up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in three. months of mass killing.
Many of the survivors have now moved out, but those who stayed have spent most of their lives in the hostel and have limited resources.
On the day of Patel’s visit, authorities told 22 residents that they had been taken on a 56-mile tour of Bugesera in the south, where they spent most of the day inspecting the genocide memorials. After returning to Kigali, they were taken to parliament to see another monument. They returned to Hope House after British officials left.
“That’s why we don’t think everything is done in good faith,” said one Observer.
The UK government has said it will pay the initial £ 120 million to the Rwandan government to implement the plan, but will have to pay additional accommodation, food and travel costs.
Residents of Hope House, formerly known as the Genocide Survivors Association (AERG) Dormitory, have been told they will be relocated to make room for asylum seekers sent from Britain. They expressed concern for their future. “Residents who leave the hotel often return after failing to get a job. It’s hard outside when you don’t have a job, “he told the Observer last week. The second feared that promises to find them alternative homes would not be fulfilled. “The government says it will hire us elsewhere, but we don’t believe it,” he said. “They tell us to go, but they don’t give us money.” Remember that some of these survivors lost the whole family. Where do they want us to go? “
Residents asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.
A Rwandan government spokesman told the Observer that it was “wrong” to suggest that Hope Hostel was an orphanage or a place to house orphans after the genocide.
“Hope Hostel was built to accommodate students who survived the genocide, but is no longer used for this purpose because most residents are adults with work and families and live independently,” the spokesman said.
“Currently, Hope Hostel hosts a small number of people, the youngest of which is 29. Some of this group are in the process of graduating from university and college. It was agreed that they would leave soon and be entitled to a living allowance until they found a job. [The] AERG has been planning to turn the facility into a commercial hostel for some time.
Audace Mudahemuka, president of AERG, said the hostel was built by Rwandan donors to support the surviving students and “served a great purpose.”
“But it was canceled long before the government contacted us to hire it for the program. Only a small part of the beds were used in the hostel and the maintenance of the equipment is expensive. We were pleased when the government offered to rent the property, because the funds we receive from them will allow us to provide support to hundreds or even thousands of genocide survivors through our other projects around the country, ”said Mudahemuka.
Officials did not deny the report of the day trip, stating only that “Hope Hostel residents can come and go as they please.”
There are also doubts about Patel’s claim that migrants sent to Rwanda after entering the United Kingdom illegally would prosper there if their asylum applications were rejected. The reporters who accompanied the Minister of the Interior were introduced to a couple from Yemen who ran a successful café. Burhan Almerdas (37) praised the Rwandan people as “friendly” and said the local environment was business friendly.
But even though Rwanda is credited with rapid economic growth, some statistics are questioned and the benefits of any new prosperity are not evenly shared. Bapaste Gatsinzi, who sought refuge in Rwanda from neighboring Burundi in 2018, said he had recently moved his family to Uganda because life in Rwanda was too “difficult”.
“I will join them next month and try my life again,” said Gatsinzi, who lived in the eastern province of Cibitoke, a city bordering Burundi.
An Ethiopian refugee who settled in 2018 told the Observatory: “It is difficult to survive in Rwanda because the cost of living is very high. I started a grocery store, but I don’t have customers. People don’t have money and I’ll close soon because I can’t afford to rent. “
An Eritrean who came to Rwanda in 2017 said he was unable to find a regular job and survived on benefits. According to him, most of his friends moved to Uganda.
Human rights activists have long criticized Rwandan veteran Paul Kagame for his intolerance of dissent, and refugees who spoke to the Observer demanded anonymity. According to officials, Rwanda is already home to more than 130,000 refugees from countries such as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan.
Opposition politicians in Rwanda have criticized the agreement to accept asylum seekers who have arrived from the UK, saying Western countries should “make international commitments on migration.”
In 2019, Rwanda agreed to accept refugees and asylum seekers evacuated from detention centers in Libya. The country also had a short-term agreement with Israel.
Last week, Kagame rejected criticism of the agreement. “We don’t trade in human beings, please.” This is not the case. We actually help, “he said.
“It’s a clear problem and it was actually something like an innovation that Rwanda proposed to deal with this migration problem.”