Rwandan genocide survivors left hostel for Priti Patel to inspect | Rwanda

Rwandan genocide survivors currently living in the hostel that will house asylum seekers sent from the UK under a controversial Home Office plan have been sent on a day trip to prevent them to disrupt Home Secretary Priti Patel’s visit this month, the Observer has learned.

Patel visited the hostel, known as Hope House, when she was in Kigali to sign the Rwanda deal. His visit was carefully managed by both the Rwandan authorities and the Ministry of Interior to present the plan in the best possible light.

The proposal was widely condemned as inhumane, illegal, impractical and prohibitively expensive. Critics have included Tory MPs and their peers, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said in his Easter Sunday sermon that the scheme “does not stand the judgment of God”.

The migrants are taken to Dover on a British Border Force boat after attempting to cross the English Channel last week. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Asylum seekers from the UK will be accommodated at Hope House, a facility built to provide safe accommodation and a “new family” to between 150 and 190 young orphans of the 1994 genocide, when up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in three months of massacres.

Many of the survivors have now moved on, but those who remain have spent most of their lives in the inn and have limited resources.

On the day of Patel’s visit, 22 locals were told by authorities that they would be making a 90km round trip to the southern town of Bugesera, where they spent much of the day visiting memorials of genocide. Back in Kigali, they were taken to parliament to see another memorial. They returned to Hope House after the departure of British officials.

“That’s why we think not everything is done in good faith,” a resident told the Observer.

The UK government has said it will pay an initial £120m to the Rwandan government to implement the plan, but will have to pay additional costs for accommodation, food and travel.

Residents of Hope House, formerly known as the Association of Student Genocide Survivors (AERG) hostel, have been told they will be relocated to make room for asylum seekers sent from Britain. They expressed concerns about their future. “Often, residents who leave the hotel return after failing to find employment. It’s hard out here when you don’t have a job,” one told the Observer Last week. A second feared that the promises to find them other accommodation would not be kept. “The government says it will hire us elsewhere but we don’t believe it,” he said. “They tell us to go but they haven’t given us any money. Remember that some of these survivors have lost their entire families. Where do they want us to go?

Residents asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

A spokesman for the Rwandan government told the Observer that to suggest that the Hope Hostel is an orphanage, or a place intended to house genocide orphans, was “incorrect”.

“Hope Hostel was built to house student survivors of the genocide but is no longer used for these purposes as most residents are adults with jobs and families, and live independently,” the spokesperson said. .

“Currently Hope Hostel is hosting a small number of people, the youngest of whom is 29 years old. Some members of this group are in the process of graduating from university and college. It has been agreed that they will leave soon and become eligible for subsistence allowance until they find employment. [The] AERG has been considering converting the facility into a commercial hostel for some time. »

Audace Mudahemuka, president of AERG, said the hostel was built by Rwandan donors to support surviving students and had “served a wonderful purpose”.

“But it was being liquidated long before the government contacted us to lease it for this program. Only a small fraction of the hostel beds were in use and maintaining the facility is expensive. We were delighted when the government has offered to lease the property, as the funds we receive from them will allow us to provide support to hundreds if not thousands of genocide survivors through our other projects across the country,” Mudahemuka said.

Officials didn’t deny reports of the day trip, saying only that “residents of Hope Hostel can come and go as they please.”

There are also doubts about Patel’s claim that migrants sent to Rwanda after entering the UK illegally would thrive there if their asylum claims were refused. The journalists accompanying the Minister of the Interior were introduced to a couple from Yemen who ran a successful café. Burhan Almerdas, 37, hailed the Rwandan people as “welcoming” and said there was a local business-friendly environment.

But although Rwanda has been credited with rapid economic growth, some statistics are disputed and the benefits of any new prosperity are not shared equitably. Bapaste Gatsinzi, who sought refuge in Rwanda in 2018 from neighboring Burundi, said he recently moved his family to Uganda because life is too “difficult” in Rwanda.

“I will also join them next month and try life again,” said Gatsinzi, who lived in the eastern province of Cibitoke, a town bordering Burundi.

An Ethiopian refugee who settled in 2018 told the Observer: “It is difficult to survive in Rwanda because the cost of living is very high. I set up a grocery store but I have no customers. People don’t have money and I’m going to close soon because I can’t afford rent.

An Eritrean who arrived in Rwanda in 2017 said he could not find regular work and survived on aid. Most of his friends have moved to Uganda, he said.

Human rights activists have long criticized Rwanda’s veteran leader Paul Kagame for his intolerance of dissent, and refugees who spoke to the Observer requested anonymity. Officials say Rwanda is already home to more than 130,000 refugees from countries including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan.

Opposition politicians in Rwanda have criticized the deal to accept asylum seekers from the UK, saying Western countries should “live up to their international obligations on migration issues”.

In 2019, Rwanda has agreed to take in refugees and asylum seekers evacuated from detention centers in Libya. The country also had a short-lived deal with Israel.

Last week, Kagame dismissed criticism of the deal. “We’re not trading humans, please. This is not the case. We are actually helping,” he said.

“It’s a clear question and it was actually a kind of innovation that Rwanda put forward to deal with this migration issue.”

Linda G. Ibarra