As a recent arrival in the UK, I’ve been interested to hear what people were saying about my country following the announcement of the UK-Rwanda Migration Partnership.
Disappointingly, much of the discussion has either questioned our motives for entering the Partnership or doubted our ability to provide safe haven to those in need – as was the case in Friday’s legal proceedings brought by those who wish to see the Partnership fail.
As the new High Commissioner to the UK, it’s my duty to give a voice to the Rwandan people and explain why our country is exactly the right choice of partner for this innovative initiative. Because of our history, Rwanda has a deep connection to those seeking safety and opportunity in a new land. We are one of the most welcoming nations in the world, supporting those in need no matter where they come from. Rwanda provides refuge to over 130,000 refugees from neighboring countries, and also hosts many who fled Afghanistan following the fall of the country to the Taliban, including an entire girls’ boarding school.
Much of this work is carried out in partnership with international organisations. Rwanda joined with the UNHCR to evacuate migrants from Libya, and as a signatory to the Kampala Convention, we work with the African Union to support displaced peoples across the continent.
These projects stand as a testament to the progress we’ve made as a country over the past three decades.
Rwanda’s story since the Genocide against the Tutsi is one of humanitarian intervention – Rwanda is consistently one of the top contributors to United Nations peacekeeping missions. Partnering with the UK to address a global issue involving human beings in peril is in keeping with our record.
When migrants arrive in Rwanda, they will find safety and security, and be treated with dignity and respect. We will facilitate their asylum claim and house them in suitable temporary accommodation while their claim is processed. Throughout this time, they’ll be free to come and go as they please and the Rwandan authorities will look after their needs. Whether their claim is approved or rejected these migrants will be offered a legal pathway to stay in Rwanda. They will have the right to work and access services, and we will do all we can support them to integrate into Rwandan society.
Alternatively, they are free to return to their country of origin, or to another country of their choice that will accept them. The migrants are under no obligations to remain in Rwanda. But we hope they will choose to do so, joining the many thousands of others already building new lives and contributing to the continued development of our country.
According to the United Nations, between 1990 and 2017, Rwanda’s Human Development Index value (which measures good governance, economic growth and human development) more than doubled, the highest average growth in the world. We are secure and stable, ranked one of the safest countries in the world for travellers. Our economy has grown consistently, allowing us to significantly reduce poverty and create opportunities for our people.
Gender, too, has been at the heart of our growth and development – we currently have the highest rate of women in Parliament in the world and a proud record of women leading in the public and private sectors.
So, for those who doubt Rwanda’s motivations or our capabilities I would say this: our motivation to enter into this partnership is shaped by our historical experience. And our ability to deliver on our commitments to those who come here is demonstrated by our record of already providing shelter and opportunity to those in need.
Mr Justice Swift was right to say that some of the risks of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda outlined by the claims in Friday’s court hearing were very small and “in the realms of speculation” when ruling that the Partnership could go ahead as planned.
We know we can, and will, provide safety and opportunity to those who come to us, and we hope that through this partnership, the UK and the wider world will better know the true story of Rwanda.
Johnston Busingye is The High Commissioner for Rwanda to the United Kingdom