Rwanda’s response to concerns regarding cost of hosting migrants from UK

On 18 January 2024 at 11:19

President Kagame has stated that Rwanda could refund the money received from the United Kingdom if no asylum seekers are transferred to his country under the agreement reached with the British government.

This statement was made during an interview with The Guardian on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, in Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum.

The Guardian journalist questioned President Kagame about his perspective on the ongoing political and legal obstacles around the deal with his country, Kagame said: “Ask the UK – it is the UK’s problem, not Rwanda’s problem.”

When asked about the fate of the money spent by the UK for the program, he stated that the money will be used for deportees where he suggested a possibility for a refund if the deal fails.

This statement comes after the revelation that the British bill classifying Rwanda as a safe country still requires improvements to address all its shortcomings. It was also supported by a vote within the ruling party.

While many members of the ruling party support the transfer of immigrants to Rwanda, they call for a thorough review and update of the bill to avoid compromising the program. Additionally, members of the British Labour Party believe that this project should be rejected as it would not provide a sustainable solution to the immigration issue.

President Kagame emphasized that discussions on this program have a limited duration to prevent them from dragging on. On June 11, 2022, a few hours before a plane carrying immigrants from the UK to Rwanda was scheduled to depart, the European Court of Human Rights suspended the project, delaying the journey.

Rwandan Government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo affirmed the country’s position, emphasizing that there is ’no obligation’ to return the funds received under the Migration and Economic Development Partnership.

However, she acknowledged the possibility of considering a refund if the UK government formally requests it, in the event of the migrant deal failing.

In an official statement, Makolo stated, "The funds paid to Rwanda under the Migration and Economic Development Partnership are intended to both support Rwanda’s economic development, and to allow us to prepare to receive and care for the migrants when they arrive.

Under the terms of the agreement, Rwanda has no obligation to return any of the funds paid. However, if no migrants come to Rwanda under the scheme, and the UK government wishes to request a refund of the portion of the funding allocated to support the migrants, we will consider this request."

She went on to say that talking about figures at this point is premature, as the government is still awaiting the conclusion of the UK legislative process and ’remain committed to making the partnership work’.

At the end of last year, Rwanda and the UK signed a new agreement in response to the flaws pointed out by the British Supreme Court, which had ruled that the initial program was not in accordance with the law. This agreement was signed by the UK Home Secretary, James Cleverly, and Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vincent Biruta.

In December 2023, the British Parliament voted in favor of sending migrants to Rwanda, with 313 members approving the project against 269. Rishi Sunak’s "Rwandan plan" on immigration thus passed a significant stage in Parliament.

During the second vote on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, in the House of Commons, 320 members voted in favor , and 276 against. The bill was then sent to the House of Lords for final approval.

At the end of last year, Rwanda and the UK signed a revised migration treaty. It was signed by the UK Home Secretary, James Cleverly, and Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vincent Biruta.