Kigali, Jun 23 (EFE).- Rwandan president Paul Kagame and British prime minister Boris Johnson praised the United Kingdom’s plan to send asylum seekers who enter the UK irregularly to Rwanda.
In April, the central African nation secured a multi-million dollar agreement with the British government to process asylum applications to the UK, a process which can take several years.
“The leaders (…) praised the successful UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership, which is tackling dangerous smuggling gangs while offering people a chance to build a new life in a safe country,” the British Prime Minister’s Office highlighted Thursday in a statement.
Although the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stopped the first flight of asylum seekers from the UK to Kigali on July 14, both Rwanda and the UK have announced that they “remain committed” to this repatriation program.
During his meeting with the Rwandan president as part of the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Johnson congratulated Kagame on the “extraordinary social and economic development in just a few decades” since the 1994 genocide.
The two leaders also discussed how to “address the international fallout from (Russian president Vladimir) Putin’s invasion – including sharply rising global food prices, which are hitting African countries the hardest,” the statement from Johnson’s office said.
The English judiciary is expected to decide in July whether the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda complies with the law and can continue, after the European Court of Human Rights intervened at the last minute to cancel the first planned flight to Kigali last week.
Since it was announced in April, the agreement has drawn heavy criticism from human rights organizations, the United Nations and the opposition in both countries, as well as from Prince Charles, heir to the British Crown, and the leadership of the Anglican Church.
Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza has said that the asylum seekers deportation agreement violates the principle of non-refoulement of the Geneva Convention, which bars countries from transferring or removing people when that person’s safety, freedoms or human rights could be at risk.
Critics not only argue that human rights protection is not guaranteed in Rwanda, which the UN says lacks the necessary infrastructure to process asylum claims, they also point to the high cost of the deal.
The British government – which will contribute up to 120 million pounds sterling (more than $146 million) to the Rwandan government – insists the agreement with Rwanda is necessary to discourage the arrival of people in small boats across the English Channel.
London estimates that 28,526 people crossed the channel in 2021 to access the UK irregularly, up from 8,466 a year earlier. EFE