Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|June 13, 2022|5 Minutes|In Editor's Desk

Editor’s Desk

Rwanda and asylum seekers – hell or a hopeful second chance?

This week the first cross-channel asylum seekers from Britain are expected to land in Rwanda opening up another chapter in Africas history. A judge refused asylum seekers interim relief against a government order that will see thousands of people, who battled their way from their troubled countries in open boats to the shores of Britain, facing a flight to Rwanda where they will have a chance to settle.

This is not a philanthropic exercise – Britain is paying Rwanda £120 million to accept the people. Yet the Rwandan government is also doing it because it helps stem the tide of Africans fleeing the continent.

It is supposed to open up a new chapter of hope for a number of the downtrodden on the continent, instead, it is more likely to see another round of political point-scoring and mudslinging.

The Archbishop of Canterbury – whose never been to Rwanda – calls it ‘against the judgement of God.’ Whatever that means in the context of this story.

The critics say this is an example of a rich country imposing its refugees arrogantly on an African nation that already has 127,000 of its own – mainly from neighboring Congo and Burundi. They say that there is pressure on land in Rwanda and that the rules are strict; critics even claim that orphans of the genocide have been kicked out of hostels to make way for asylum seekers.

What angers me most is that the story is playing out in the international press with hardly a nod to the views of Rwandans who actually live in the East African nation.

A cursory glance through the Rwandan press can yield another side to the story of what happens to the claims of asylum seekers when they arrive.

“The claims, according to sources, will be assessed based on Rwandan refugee laws and international conventions. The assessment will determine whether they get refugee status. Those granted refugee statuses will be given due papers. Those who won’t be willing to take the refugee status will also be offered an opportunity to stay in Rwanda, and if they stay, they will be granted a residence permit,” says the New Times in Kigali.

“The New Times also established that both, those who are granted the refugee status and those who are granted the option to stay, will be given packages to facilitate them to stay in the country, integrate and acquire some skills for the long-term plan so that in future they are able to sustain themselves.”

Some of the more hysterical coverage has left one with the impression people will be put in camps behind barbed wire.

Again, a cursory glance works wonders. Newspapers report that Hopes Hostel in Kigali is where the asylum seekers will stay for $19 a night. You can find pictures online. I must say, I have stayed in a lot worse hotels than that – all over Africa – for ten times the money.

If they decide to take up residence, the newcomers will wake up to that rare opportunity in life – a second chance.

All will have the chance to make it as an entrepreneur in a land of entrepreneurs. It is quicker and easier to set up your own company in Rwanda than in almost any other country in Africa.

Rwanda is a place where the hard-working entrepreneur will be welcomed and left alone, in a fairly crime-free environment, to carve out their future for themselves and their families. Surely a warmer, more welcoming option, than the mean streets of the fringes of European society.