Brian Latham reports on why human rights violations in Rwanda mean the Government’s deportation plans put vulnerable people at risk

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Even as Britain plans to send migrants to Rwanda, refugees who have fled the East African country to Zimbabwe’s Tongogara Refugee Camp refuse to go home. They should have been repatriated years ago, but they insist that Zimbabwe – a country not known for its respect of human rights – is still safer than Rwanda. 

This is the absurdity of Suella Braverman’s plan, inherited from the previous Home Secretary Priti Patel and endorsed by her boss, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. That Rwandans consider Zimbabwe, with its perennial economic and political crises, a benign or anodyne alternative to their own country seems to have escaped British consciousness, probably because Zimbabwe gets unrelenting bad press and Rwanda doesn’t. 

Now, the High Court has judged the policy is “lawful” after a coalition of human rights charity took the UK Government to judicial review. The judgement added that each individual case must be considered individually by the Home Secretary, and quashed the decision to deport eight individuals.

Braverman, and Patel before her, wants to send very vulnerable human beings who have fled war, terror, torture, and slavery to an oppressive and authoritarian regime accused of sponsoring bloodshed in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and a global smear campaign against its detractors. 

Rwanda, as this newspaper has reported, is not a democracy. It jails critics and anyone brave enough to oppose it – and it’s a long way from Dover. 

If Rwandan President Paul Kagame commits some (or, rather, another) egregious act against his own citizenry or against his Congolese neighbour, Braverman and her party will face a storm of outrage at home and abroad. 

Think about it: in the shabby, old Tongogara Refugee Camp, hundreds of Rwandans live a miserable, hardscrabble existence but are afraid to leave. They fled during the nineties. If Rwanda isn’t safe for its own refugees, by what measure is it safe for people who have fled war and persecution to seek aslyum in Britain? 

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Perhaps Braverman will tarry with some slippery remark about Commonwealth cooperation. But doing so would expose this policy for the farce it is. 

It would be cheaper to process the people right here, at home. If, in a clean and transparent process they are found to be ineligible to remain in the UK, then the Government can send them home. Perhaps, with the asylum backlog currently leaving thousands languishing in the system, clean and transparent is too big an ask. It remains the case however, that it makes more sense than sending them to unsafe Rwanda. 

The fact there are worse places than Rwanda isn’t an argument, either. Of course there are – including the countries from which asylum seekers coming to the UK have fled. But Braverman seems to think Britain can meet its human rights commitments by sending refugees to a country with a human rights problem. She wants to send them to a little country that jails people who criticise the president.  

The Government has been able to put this plan in place here because the majority of Brits know absolutely nothing about Rwanda save that genocide happened there back in the day. It was just another African crisis. Since then, no one has taken much notice to the human rights issues that remain in the country.

But a lot has happened since 1994, and and apart from a growing economy, it’s been dark and dangerous few decades for ordinary Rwandans, who deserve better. They certainly don’t deserve to see their regime sanctified by disastrous British policy. 

The Human Rights Gaps in the Rwanda Scheme Revealed

Sian Norris

When the Rwanda scheme was first announced, many assumed it would mirror Australia’s policy of offshore refugee centres, where asylum seekers would be processed and then given refuge in the UK. The Australia policy does not come without criticism over extreme cruelty, but its offshore processing centres were not 6,000 miles away in a different hemisphere. 

We must not forget the human rights issue, simply because Braverman has. Nor can we ignore important issues about infrastructure.

Rwanda generates a piddling 276 megawatts of electricity for its 13 million people, which means outside the capital there’s virtually no power. Half the population doesn’t have piped water. By comparison, South Africa needs about 60,000 megawatts and the UK about 76,000.

It’s hard to fathom how sending migrants to a poor, largely undeveloped African nation benefits anyone. Britain doesn’t benefit, the migrants don’t, and Rwanda gets a trifling £120 million and about £20,000 per person – or 3% of the cost of a new power station. 

No one in Africa understands what appeal Rwanda holds for the UK, but everyone believes there is an ulterior motive. On a continent of one billion cynics, there’s a whole lot of speculation. But in Britain? Not much. Some small pockets of virtue signalled outrage, perhaps, but no one’s lobbing bits of pavement at the Government, probably because so few people care about the rights of the most vulnerable – both those who are facing deportation to Rwanda, and those who are already there. 

So let’s just take the case of poor old Paul Rusesabagina who was kidnapped in Dubai, flown to Rwanda and convicted on terrorism charges. Hollywood made a film about him because he was a hero of the genocide – Hotel Rwanda. It earned Oscar, BAFTA and SAG nominations. Or consider the case of Yvonne Idamange, sentenced to 15 years for ‘’inciting public disorder.”.

This is the country Suella Braverman thinks is just fine for traumatised refugees. It really isn’t. 

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