UNHCR faces criticism for alleged hypocrisy in planned deportation of UK migrants to Rwanda

On 20 November 2023 at 08:58

The Spokesperson for the Government of Rwanda, Yolande Makolo, has asserted that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) played a significant role in the United Kingdom (UK)’s Supreme Court ruling, which rejected the deportation of migrants to Rwanda, labeling it as an ’unsafe third country.’ The court highlighted concerns about Rwanda’s human rights records, citing issues related to the lack of political and media freedom.

However, the UK government maintained its stance that Rwanda is a safe country, emphasizing that asylum seekers would be treated decently upon deportation. Yolande Makolo told The Sun that the Supreme Court’s politically charged judgment on the Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) was insulting to Rwanda. She disclosed that the ruling was based on inaccurate evidence provided by UNHCR.

"If you just read the UNHCR’s evidence, you would be forgiven for thinking that they believe Rwanda was dangerous for refugees," noted Makolo. "Judges based their decision on inaccurate evidence submitted from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR]. Yet, the UNHCR continues to partner with us to evacuate asylum seekers from terrible situations in Libya," she added.

One day after the UK Supreme Court’s ruling, Rwanda received the 15th batch of asylum seekers from Libya. These 169 new arrivals joined more than 1700 others relocated from Libya, and another 130,000 refugees who are currently cared for in Rwanda. As of today, Rwanda hosts 134,519 refugees, with the majority (62.20%) from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 37.24% from Burundi, and 0.56% from other countries.

Makolo highlighted that the UNHCR has commended Rwanda’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers as ’exemplary.’ She questioned the apparent hypocrisy, stating, "So, why the hypocrisy? Campaigners have demonized Rwanda just because they don’t like the policy."

For Rwandans, Makolo expressed difficulty in understanding and accepting the attacks on the country for caring for asylum seekers and migrants, especially when the claims are deemed false and misleading. Under the MEDP, anyone coming to Rwanda will be offered a path to residence and a chance to build a life, irrespective of the validity of their asylum claims.

"Some question our motives. To be clear, we’re doing this because we believe migrants don’t need to make dangerous journeys to Europe to succeed. We want to offer them a home in Africa and build decent prospects here," said Makolo.

She further said that those who want to criticise the MEDP ’can go ahead’ but warned them against attacking Rwanda and using lies to do so, because Rwanda deserves better as a country offering safety, opportunity and a home to those most in need.

Rwanda and the UK remain committed to working together for a revised policy to address barriers that could affect the MEDP.