Rwanda Woman Faces Two Years In Jail For ‘Shameful’ Dress

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

A 24-year-old woman who was arrested in Rwanda for wearing “shameful” clothing faces up to two years in jail for “public indecency”, prosecutors said Thursday.

Liliane Mugabekazi was arrested on August 7 after she attended a concert by popular French musician Tayc eight days earlier, wearing a sheer dress.

“She attended the concert while wearing clothes that reveal her private parts… clothes that we call shameful,” prosecutors said, accusing her of committing a “serious crime”.

“It is on these serious grounds that we ask the court to remand Mugabekazi for 30 days.”

“She is suspected to have committed public indecency,” the spokesman for the prosecution, Faustin Nkusi, told AFP, adding that the court would announce on Tuesday whether she would receive bail.

News of the arrest sparked outrage among some Rwandans, but government officials including former justice minister Johnston Busingye backed the move.

“The current issue of our young men and women who drink and drug themselves unconscious, appear in public literally naked is objectionable,” tweeted Busingye, who is now Rwanda’s ambassador to Britain.

“I support the efforts… to address it.”

In a TV interview last week police spokesman John Bosco Kabera rebuked what he called “immorality and indecency among young people.”

“This problem is escalating… you find an individual wearing only a shirt only… without pants or shorts,” he said.

“These people then go to public places dressed like that, with clothes that look like nets.”

When the programme host asked him if “such people did not have a right to dress as they please,” he responded: “The first right is to dress well, not dressing indecently.”

In recent years many Rwandans have fallen foul of the country’s strict indecency laws.

In March, police arrested a 20-year-old woman for “public drunkenness and indecent assault” after a video of her lying on the ground in an alcoholic stupor circulated on social media.

The East African nation’s rights record has been sharply criticised by campaigners, who accuse President Paul Kagame’s government of crushing any dissent.

AFP

Rwandan President Set To Run Again In 2024 Election

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame speaks during a joint press conference with French President at the Presidential Palace in Kigali on May 27, 2021. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

 

President Paul Kagame, de facto ruler of Rwanda since the end of the genocide in 1994, has indicated he will stand for president again at the next election due in 2024.

Asked if he would seek re-election, Kagame said: “I consider running for another 20 years. I have no problem with that,” he told the France 24 news channel in an interview broadcast Friday.

“Elections are about people choosing,” he added.

Kagame changed the constitution in 2015 allowing him to remain in power until 2034.

The 64-year-old swept the 2017 presidential election with an official 99 percent of the vote.

He was just 36 when his Patriotic Front party forced out Hutu extremists blamed for the genocide in which some 800,000 mainly Tutsi people were murdered between April and July 1994.

Kagame fiercely defended Rwanda’s record on human rights and political freedoms at a Commonwealth summit in Kigali at the end of June.

Kagame Defends Rwanda On Human Rights As Togo, Gabon Join Commonwealth

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame listens to questions from journalists during the end of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), at the Intare arena conference on June 25, 2022 in Kigali. Simon MAINA / AFP
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame listens to questions from journalists during the end of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), at the Intare arena conference on June 25, 2022 in Kigali. Simon MAINA / AFP

 

President Paul Kagame on Saturday fiercely defended Rwanda’s record on human rights and political freedoms as the curtains closed on a Commonwealth summit where his country came under intense scrutiny.

The Commonwealth also welcomed two new members into the fold at its summit in Kigali — the French-speaking West African states of Togo and Gabon that have no historic ties to Britain.

The decision to hold the gathering in Rwanda was heavily criticised by rights watchdogs, which accused Commonwealth leaders of turning a blind eye to repression and the jailing of opponents in the host country.

READ ALSO: Prince Charles Pays Tribute To Genocide Victims In Rwanda

Kagame, who has been de facto ruler since the end of the genocide in 1994, told reporters Rwanda was proud of its record and would not be lectured by outsiders.

“As far as values are concerned, we don’t need any lessons from BBC or from anyone,” Kagame said in an impassioned statement that lasted nearly 30 minutes.

“I want to assure you there is nobody… who (is) beholding values better than we do here in Rwanda,” he told the summit’s closing press conference.

Ahead of the meeting attended by Prince Charles and around 30 leaders, rights groups warned that Kigali’s sparkling streets had been cleared of the homeless and street kids to maintain a glossy image for visitors.

In an open letter, 23 civil society organisations said there was a “climate of fear” in Rwanda and urged Commonwealth leaders not to risk the body’s integrity by letting Kagame off the hook.

His government had presided over a crackdown on rights of assembly, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial executions, they said.

Kagame rejected any suggestion his government detained opponents, saying some of his most vocal critics had been freed from prison by presidential pardon.

“There is nobody in Rwanda who is in prison that should not be there, because we have a justice system that is actually functional, and fair,” he said.

‘Historic moment’

Kagame also announced that Gabon and Togo had been admitted into the Commonwealth, the first new members since Rwanda in 2009.

“This is a historic moment! A new important page in the history of Gabon is opening 62 years after its independence,” Gabonese President Ali Bongo said in a statement.

Togo’s Foreign Minister Robert Dussey said membership opened the door to 2.5 billion consumers in the Commonwealth realm, offered new education opportunities, and tapped a “craze” for English among his countrymen.

Francophone states have also sought to join the Commonwealth in recent years to pivot away from former colonial ruler France, analysts said.

The admission of Gabon and Togo takes membership to 56 nations, and is a boon for the Commonwealth at a time of renewed discussion over its future relevance and modern profile.

Republican movements are taking root in a number of Commonwealth nations and some are seeking reparations for colonial-era injustices.

On Friday, Prince Charles told Commonwealth leaders the choice to become a republic or abandon Queen Elizabeth II as head of state was theirs alone and expressed “personal sorrow” at Britain’s legacy of slavery.

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the interest from new members proved the organisation was alive and well.

‘Better together’

But the admission of Gabon and Togo could raise questions about the Commonwealth’s espoused commitment to good governance, respect of rights and democracy as fundamental values of its charter.

Both countries have been ruled by single families for over half a century, and elections have been marred by irregularities and violence.

“We are much better together than we ever will be apart,” said Patricia Scotland, who was re-elected in Kigali for another two years as Commonwealth secretary-general after a bruising and divisive campaign.

Delegates at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) addressed issues including climate change, violence against women, mental health, vaccine equity, and urbanisation — to name a few.

A much-criticised deal to deport asylum-seekers from the UK to Rwanda dogged the meeting, however, with Johnson vigorously defending his policy.

Ahead of the summit it was reported that Charles — who takes over the Commonwealth when he becomes king — strongly opposed the migrant scheme.

The first transfer of asylum seekers scheduled this month was blocked in a European court, but Johnson insists the deal is not unlawful and he will pursue it.

Born out of the British Empire, the Commonwealth represents one-third of humanity in nations across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

The next Commonwealth meet will be in Samoa in 2024.

 

AFP

PHOTOS: Buhari Arrives In Kigali For CHOGM 2022

Rwanda 1: President Buhari with L-R: Rwandan Minister of Justice and Attorney General Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Rwanda Aishatu Musa, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama as he arrives in Kigali, Rwanda for CHOGM 2022 in 22nd June 2022. Credit: State House.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday evening arrived in Kigali, Rwanda for the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

The meeting runs from June 22 to the 26th. He was received by the Rwandan Minister of Justice and Attorney General Emmanuel Ugirashebuja and Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Rwanda Aishatu Musa.

Buhari was accompanied by some government officials including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama.

Others were the Minister of State Trade & Investment Amb. Mariam Katagum and  Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Sadiya Umar Farouq.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed was also there.

Rwanda 6: President Buhari with L-R: UN DSG Amina Mohammed, Minister of State Trade & Investment Amb. Mariam Katagum, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Sadiya Umar Farouq as he arrives Kigali, Rwanda for CHOGM 2022 on 22nd June 2022

 

The theme for CHOGM 2022 is ‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming,’ and the Heads of Government are expected to reaffirm their commitment to upholding the Commonwealth Charter, which focuses on democracy, human rights, the rule of law, as well as economic opportunities and sustainable development.

See more photos below:

Prince Charles Pays Tribute To Genocide Victims In Rwanda


Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and Britain’s Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall pause in front of a flower wreath at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Kigali, Rwanda on June 22, 2022, during a visit. Simon WOHLFAHRT / AFP

 

Prince Charles laid a wreath on Wednesday at a memorial to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda during the first visit to the country by a British royal. 

The Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla paused in silent tribute at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the massacres almost three decades ago.

The royal couple signed a note of remembrance to accompany a wreath of white flowers.

They also spoke with survivors of the genocide in which some 800,000 mainly Tutsi people were murdered by Hutu extremist forces between April and July 1994.

READ ALSO: Death Toll From Afghanistan Earthquake Reaches 1,000

Housing skulls, bone fragments, and shreds of clothing, the memorial is a testimony to the horrors of the genocide and a customary stop for foreign dignitaries visiting Rwanda.

Charles and Camilla also toured the memorial museum where they viewed photographs of the victims and their possessions and heard personal accounts of the killings.

The royal couple touched down late Tuesday in Rwanda where the Prince of Wales is representing his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, at a Commonwealth summit this week.

The leaders of many Commonwealth nations are expected in Kigali in the coming days for the meeting of the 54-member club of mainly former British colonies.

Rwanda, a former German and Belgian colony, joined the Commonwealth in 2009 and has in recent years moved closer to the English-speaking world.

Charles and Camilla also met President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame at the Rwandan leader’s official residence on Wednesday.

The royals and their hosts smiled for photographs flanked by the flags of their respective countries before commencing a private meeting.

Ahead of the Commonwealth summit, Charles had reportedly criticised a migrant resettlement deal hatched between Kagame and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “appalling”, setting the scene for an awkward encounter in Kigali.

The UK government said Wednesday it would introduce legislation allowing it to ignore certain European Court of Human Rights decisions after a judge in Strasbourg blocked flights removing asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Inaugurated in 2004 during the 10th anniversary of the killings, the Kigali Genocide Memorial has an education centre, a garden, library, and a 1,200-seat amphitheatre that hosts workshops, plays, and films.

It contains three permanent exhibitions and clubs, machetes, arrows and other tools used in the massacres are on display.

The victims’ remains are laid out in three main rows and more have been buried as new graves are uncovered around the country.

At the burial ground, there is a Wall of Names dedicated to victims of the genocide.

AFP

Falana Faults UK’s Plan To Send Asylum Seekers To Rwanda

A file photo of Femi Falana (SAN).

 

Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, has faulted the plan of the UK Government to send asylum seekers and refugees in the UK to Rwanda.

In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Falana described the plan as unlawful and discriminatory, and requested that the UK halts it and complies with its international legal obligations.

“I am writing to urge you to provide the leadership necessary for the UK government to immediately halt the patently unlawful and discriminatory plan to send asylum seekers and refugees who flee conflict and persecution to Rwanda, and to comply with the UK’s international legal obligations,” the statement read in part.

Read Also: UK To Send Asylum Seekers To Rwanda

“I note that you announced on 14 April, 2022 that under the UK and Rwanda’s new migration and economic development partnership, “anyone entering the UK illegally, as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1, may now be relocated to Rwanda.

According to Boris Johnson, Rwanda will have the capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead.

But Falana warned the UK authorities not to push its international legal obligations to another country.

According to him, the UK government simultaneously published a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concluded with the government of Rwanda for the provision of an asylum partnership arrangement.

“The MoU foresees the transfer of asylum seekers whose claims are not being considered by the United Kingdom, to Rwanda, which will process their claims and settle or remove (as appropriate) individuals after their claim is decided,” Falana said.

“I am very concerned that the Home Office is offering to fly asylum seekers and refugees back to the conflict zones they escaped from in the first instance if they do not wish to be sent to Rwanda.

“According to my information, asylum seekers and refugees are being sent to Rwanda because of their method of reaching the UK – generally crossing the Channel to enter the UK. The largest nationality groups affected seem to be Afghans, Iranians and Sudanese. Sudanese refugees reportedly represent more than a third of those being sent to Rwanda.

“This patently racist, unlawful and discriminatory plan is inconsistent and incompatible with the UK’s international human rights obligations, and commitments to refugees. The UK authorities cannot and should not escape their international legal obligations to asylum seekers and refugees and push to shift such obligations to another country.

“Specifically, the MoU and the plan to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda blatantly violate the UK’s legal obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; the Convention against Torture; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is patently unlawful and discriminatory for the UK government to penalise asylum seekers and refugees who belong to a group of nationalities simply because of their alleged irregular entry into the UK. The MoU and plan to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda may also violate the internationally recognized right to non-refoulement, and lead to violations of other human rights.

“You will agree with me that the MoU cannot be justified under international law as both UK and Rwanda are states parties to the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.

“Therefore, sending asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda, a country with appalling human rights record will amount to double jeopardy for asylum seekers and refugees: denying them their internationally recognized human rights in the UK while also exposing them to the risks of grave human rights violations in Rwanda.

“The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has already raised a number of concerns about the asylum process in Rwanda, including discriminatory access to asylum, a lack of legal representation and interpreters, and difficulties in launching an appeal.

“Indeed, the Rwandese government has been accused by the UK and other Western countries of violating the human rights of its own people while also denying them access to justice and effective remedies. In the circumstances, it is the height of hypocrisy on the part of the UK to dump the refugees in Rwanda.

“As you are no doubt aware, the rights of the refugees to effective remedies cannot be guaranteed as Rwanda has withdrawn its declaration to the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights which allows direct access of individuals and NGOs to the court.

“I, therefore, urge you to immediately halt any plan to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda, and to fully and effectively respect, protect, promote and fulfil their human rights to equality, equal treatment and non-discrimination, consistent with the UK’s international legal obligations.

“While thanking you in advance of your attention, I look forward to continued dialogue on the issue.”

Last-Gasp Challenge Fails Against UK’s Rwanda Asylum Plan

Protesters hold placards as they gather outside the Home Office in central London on June 13, 2022, to demonstrate against the UK government's intention to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda. Niklas HALLE'N / AFP
Protesters hold placards as they gather outside the Home Office in central London on June 13, 2022, to demonstrate against the UK government’s intention to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda. Niklas HALLE’N / AFP

 

UK campaigners on Monday failed in a last-gasp bid to stop the government’s first flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda, as protests mounted against the policy.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London rejected a challenge to a High Court ruling last Friday that the deportations could go ahead.

Judges Rabinder Singh, Ingrid Simler and Jeremy Stuart-Smith dismissed claims the lower court judge should have waited to make a decision until a full hearing on the legality of the policy next month.

“He weighed all the factors and reached a conclusion which he was reasonably entitled to reach on the material before him,” Singh said.

“This court cannot therefore interfere with that conclusion.”

READ ALSO: In Britain, LGBTQ Migrants Fear Being Sent To Rwanda

The government has vowed to push ahead with the removal of the migrants on a chartered flight on Tuesday from an undisclosed airport.

Thirty-one migrants had been due to be sent but one of the claimants, the NGO Care4Calais, tweeted that 21 of them had now had their tickets cancelled.

Other claimants include the Public and Commercial Services union, whose members will have to implement the removals and immigration support group Detention Action.

PCS chief Mark Serwotka said on Sunday it would be “an appalling situation” if Tuesday’s removals were subsequently found to be illegal at the full hearing.

Home Secretary Priti Patel should wait for the July hearing if she “had any respect, not just for the desperate people who come to this country, but for the workers she employs”, Serwotka told Sky News.

“We’re absolutely confident that in July, in line with what the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) said very graphically in court, we believe these proposals will be found to be unlawful.”

Protesters gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday and further demonstrations were expected outside the Home Office.

In Geneva, UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi called the UK government policy “all wrong” and said it should not be “exporting its responsibility to another country”.

‘Hate speech and discrimination’

Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson insist the policy is needed to stop a flood of all-too-often deadly migrant crossings of the Channel from France.

“It’s very important that the criminal gangs who are putting people’s lives at risk in the Channel understand that their business model is going to be broken,” Johnson told LBC radio on Monday.

“They’re selling people falsely, luring them into something that is extremely risky and criminal.”

Under the agreement with Kigali, anyone landing in the UK illegally is liable to be given a one-way ticket for processing and resettlement in Rwanda.

The government says that the plan will target gangsters who charge would-be migrants thousands of dollars to undertake the perilous crossing for a new life in Britain.

Genuine asylum claimants should be content to stay in France, it says.

And contradicting the UNHCR, it insists that Rwanda is a safe destination with the capacity to absorb possibly tens of thousands of UK-bound claimants in future.

For now, the deportations will proceed “on a gradual basis”, Doris Uwicyeza, chief technical adviser to Rwanda’s justice ministry, told LBC radio.

Uwicyeza pushed back at criticism over the human rights record of President Paul Kagame’s government — which is set this month to host a Commonwealth summit attended by Prince Charles and Johnson.

Rwanda’s 1994 genocide made it particularly attentive to “protecting anybody from hate speech and discrimination”, including gay people, she said.

Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Britain, Johnston Busingye, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that Rwanda would be a “safe haven” for migrants.

But British critics are unconvinced.

They include Prince Charles who dubbed the plan “appalling”, according to The Times newspaper on Saturday.

The reported comment prompted unnamed cabinet ministers to tell Queen Elizabeth II’s heir to stay out of politics.

International NGO Human Rights Watch issued a public letter warning that “to this day, serious human rights abuses continue to occur in Rwanda, including repression of free speech, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture”.

AFP

In Britain, LGBTQ Migrants Fear Being Sent To Rwanda

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Matt Dunham / POOL / AFP

 

 

As Britain pushes ahead with plans to send migrants to Rwanda, Hadi, a gay asylum-seeker who fled Iraq, said he would rather be sentenced to death.

Under a controversial law passed in April, the UK plans to send asylum-seekers deemed to have arrived illegally on British soil to Rwanda, an East African country 6,000 kilometres (3,728 miles) from London, starting in mid-June.

Sitting in a park in Manchester’s Gay Village, a neighbourhood in the heart of the northern English city, Hadi — not his real name — told AFP about his escape from persecution and rape attempts in Iraq.

He still bears the scars.

“I was hit on the arm and back and I lost consciousness because of the pain,” he said.

Hadi, who is in his twenties, sought asylum in Britain in January 2022 after crossing Europe from east to west.

When he heard about the plan to send migrants to Rwanda, he thought he was reliving his worst nightmares.

“We suffered and escaped death, we crossed the sea, all to be sent to Rwanda? Kill me or sentence me to death instead of sending me there,” he said.

He described the move as “unjust and criminal”, amounting to “a death sentence for all refugees” — and urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson and interior minister Priti Patel to abandon the plan.

Although homosexuality is not banned in Rwanda, LGBTQ people are frequently sacked from their jobs, disowned by their families, deprived of medical care and sometimes beaten up.

Britain’s interior ministry, the Home Office, admitted in a report to having “concerns” about the treatment of LGBTQ people in Rwanda.

– ‘Fear’ –
“Why do you want to deport them to Rwanda? So that they will be persecuted more?” said Aderonke Apata, who founded the NGO “The African Rainbow Family” and helps LGBTQ migrants integrate into British society.

Apata, herself a lesbian and former asylum-seeker, said Hadi “lives in fear every second”.

“He thought the UK respected gay rights… Now that he is there, he is suddenly faced with the prospect of being deported.”

She expressed fears there would be “no oversight of what’s happening… in detention”, and argued the monitoring mechanisms set to be put in place in Rwanda are not realistic.

“Here in the UK, personally, I had a homophobic attack when I was in detention,” she recalled.

“That was here in the UK. Now tell me, if people are now taken to Rwanda, who is going to protect them?

“For me, what the government is doing is a way of washing their hands of the conventions that guarantee human rights for refugees,” Apata added.

The government says its plan aims to deter the growing number of migrants making the perilous journey across the English Channel.

More than 28,000 people arrived in Britain having crossed the Channel from France in small boats in 2021, compared with 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019, and 299 in 2018.

But the move has drawn strong criticism from human rights groups, which on Wednesday launched legal action to block it.

It is unclear when the first flight will be able to depart, given the court challenge.

Rwanda Scraps Mask Requirement In Public

In this photo taken on December 2, 2020 a face mask hangs with a table tennis bat cover at a park in Beijing. GREG BAKER / AFP
In this photo taken on December 2, 2020 a face mask hangs with a table tennis bat cover at a park in Beijing. GREG BAKER / AFP

 

 

Rwanda has scrapped a requirement for face masks in public, easing its strict coronavirus restrictions.

Rwanda’s vaccine rollout has been among the fastest in Africa, and around a third of its 13 million people have got booster shots.

“Wearing face masks is no longer mandatory. However, people are encouraged to wear masks indoors,” the prime minister’s office said late Friday.

“Citizens and Rwanda residents must be fully vaccinated in order to access public places (including public transport). Fully vaccinated means having two doses and a booster when eligible,” the statement said.

The authorities also announced that visitors will no longer have to take PCR tests, but can take antigen tests instead before travel and after arriving in the country.

Rwanda has implemented a rigorous regime of testing and contact-tracing, recording 1,459 Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Miss Rwanda Pageant Suspended Over Sexual Assault Allegations

Miss Rwanda (2021), Umunyana Shanita.

 

 

The Miss Rwanda beauty pageant has been suspended over allegations that contestants were sexually abused, the ministry of youth and culture said, following the arrest of the event’s organiser last month.

Dieudonne Ishimwe, a former musician popularly known as Prince Kid, was taken into custody on April 27 over alleged “sexual assault related crimes”, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) said.

On Monday, the ministry of youth and culture released a statement saying that “the Miss Rwanda beauty pageant has been suspended pending completion of investigations” into the accusations against Ishimwe.

The 36-year-old is facing charges that he allegedly committed offences against former contestants of Miss Rwanda at various times, RIB spokesman Thierry Murangira told AFP at the time of his arrest.

Ishimwe is the head of Rwanda Inspiration Backup, the company behind the annual Miss Rwanda pageant.

His arrest came on the heels of an announcement that a former Miss Rwanda had resigned as communications director after four years with the company.

Miss Rwanda debuted in the global Miss World competition in 2016, according to its website.

It bills itself as the East African country’s leading beauty pageant.

UK Archbishop Slams Plan To Send Migrants To Rwanda

In this file photo taken on October 18, 2021, The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks during a service of prayer and remembrance in honour of slain British lawmaker David Amess, at St Margaret’s Church, in central London. Jonathan Brady / POOL / AFP

 

The leader of the Church of England, Justin Welby, Sunday, criticised the British government’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda to process their claims. 

The scheme has sparked outrage and widespread criticism from human rights organisations and even the UN.

And Welby, who as the Archbishop of Canterbury is the Church of England’s highest cleric, added his voice to the dissent in his Easter Day address.

While “the details are for politics and politicians,” Welby suggested that sending asylum seekers overseas posed “serious ethical questions.

“The principle must stand the judgement of God and it cannot,” Welby said.

A country like Britain informed by Christian values cannot “sub-contract out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well like Rwanda,” the church leader continued.

READ ALSO: [Russian Invasion] Pope Calls For Peace In ‘Easter Of War’

It “is the opposite of the nature of God.”

When unveiling the policy last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had already suggested there could be legal challenges to the plans.

But the interior ministry, or Home Office, which is in charge of implementing the policy, argued that Britain’s current system was “broken” and pointed to unprecedented global migratory pressures.

‘Whatever it takes’ 

Johnson has pledged to do “whatever it takes” to ensure the plans work — but the UN refugee agency UNHCR condemned the scheme as an “egregious breach of international law.”

According to an exchange of letters published by the Home Office, the ministry’s top civil servant, Matthew Rycroft, stressed on the eve of the announcement his doubts about both the expected “deterrent effect” of the scheme and its cost.

But Home Secretary Priti Patel said it would be “imprudent” to delay a measure that “we believe will reduce illegal migration, save lives, and ultimately break the business model of the smuggling gangs”.

According to Rwanda, the British government will fund the deal by up to 120 million pounds ($157 million, 144 million euros) and migrants would be “integrated into communities across the country.”

British media from the left-leaning Guardian to the conservative Daily Telegraph on Saturday warned the policy could spark a “mutiny” among civil servants tasked with making the scheme operational.

For Tahsin Tarek, a 25-year-old glazier from Arbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, who is saving up to finance a new trip to Europe, the British announcement is a game changer.

“I’m going to think about another country,” he told AFP on Saturday.

“To live here and endure the difficulties here is better than living in Rwanda.

“I don’t think anyone will accept this decision and go live there. If they give the refugees a choice between being expelled to Rwanda or their country, they will choose their own country.”

AFP

UK To Send Asylum Seekers To Rwanda

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Tolga Akmen / POOL / AFP

 

Britain will send migrants and asylum seekers who cross the Channel thousands of miles away to Rwanda under a controversial deal announced Thursday as the government tries to clamp down on record numbers of people making the perilous journey.

“From today… anyone entering the UK illegally as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1 may now be relocated to Rwanda,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a speech near Dover in southeastern England.

“Rwanda will have the capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead,” Johnson said.

READ ALSO: British PM Johnson, Sunak Fined Over COVID-19 Lockdown Parties

He called the East African nation with a sketchy human rights record “one of the safest countries in the world, globally recognised for its record of welcoming and integrating migrants.”

Johnson was elected partly on promises to curb illegal immigration but has instead seen record numbers making the risky Channel crossing.

He also announced that Britain’s border agency would hand responsibility for patrolling the Channel for migrant boats to the navy.

More than 28,000 people arrived in Britain having crossed the Channel from France in small boats in 2021.

Around 90 percent of those were male and three-quarters were men aged between 18 and 39.

“Inhumane”

The Rwanda plan swiftly drew the ire of opposition politicians who accused Johnson of trying to distract from his being fined for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules, while rights groups slammed the project as “inhumane”.

Ghana and Rwanda had previously been mentioned as possible locations for the UK to outsource the processing of migrants, but Ghana in January denied involvement.

Instead, Kigali on Thursday announced that it had signed a multi-million-dollar deal to do the job, during a visit by British Home Secretary Priti Patel.

“Rwanda welcomes this partnership with the United Kingdom to host asylum seekers and migrants, and offer them legal pathways to residence” in the East African nation, Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said in a statement.

The deal with Rwanda will be funded by the UK to the tune of up to 120 million pounds ($157 million, 144 million euros), with migrants “integrated into communities across the country,” it said.

In Dover, where many migrants arrive after crossing the Channel, some residents welcomed the announcement.

“They should be sent back, because it is not our responsibility,” said retiree Andy, 68.

“Our responsibility is to look after our own people, which we aren’t doing,” the heavily tattooed army veteran told AFP.

“I understand people escaping from repression, I do. But if they’re coming over here for one thing and that is money, to me that is wrong.”

Backlash

Refugee Action’s Tim Naor Hilton accused the government of “offshoring its responsibilities onto Europe’s former colonies instead of doing our fair share to help some of the most vulnerable people on the planet”.

“This grubby cash-for-people plan would be a cowardly, barbaric and inhumane way to treat people fleeing persecution and war,” he said.Nadia Hardman, Refugee and Migrant Rights Researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the plan would “complicate” the process for Syrians seeking refuge in the UK.

“Syrian refugees are desperate to reach a place of safety,” Hardman told AFP.

“The UK’s agreement with Rwanda will only complicate this pursuit.

“They will arrive and expect to be treated according to the fundamental values the UK says it upholds, but will instead be transferred somewhere, miles away.”

Australia has a policy of sending asylum seekers arriving by boat to detention camps on the Pacific island nation of Nauru, with Canberra vowing no asylum seeker arriving by boat would ever be allowed to permanently settle in Australia.

Since 2015 the UK has “offered a place to over 185,000 men, women and children seeking refuge (…) more than any other similar resettlement schemes in Europe,” Johnson said.

According to the UN refugee agency, Germany received the highest number of asylum applicants (127,730) in Europe in 2021, followed by France (96,510), while the UK received the fourth largest number of applicants (44,190).