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Let us press on with UK migrant plan, Rwanda tells critics

RWANDAN President Paul Kagame’s government said that it would take as many migrants as Britain sends its way and urged “shouting” critics of the deportation plan to now let both nations proceed.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expects first flights to leave in 10-12 weeks after parliament passed legislation this week to sidestep legal objections that the migrants could be sent back to nations where they may face mistreatment.

“No matter what number is announced to arrive here tomorrow or after tomorrow … we are capable of receiving them,” deputy government spokesperson Alain Mukuralinda told Reuters, adding that Rwanda did not yet know dates or numbers.

With a long history of receiving refugees from Africa’s Great Lakes region and elsewhere, Rwanda had temporary housing ready for migrants from Britain, Mukuralinda added, with longer-term facilities under construction as they go through the asylum process and potentially establish residency.

Kagame won plaudits for rebuilding Rwanda after the 1994 genocide that killed more than 1 million people, turning it into one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. But his government has been accused by Western nations and rights activists of muzzling the media, repressing critics, and backing rebel groups in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rwanda denies those allegations.

“For two years, critics have just shouted without proposing another solution,” Mukuralinda said of the UK migrant plan.

“Today, I would say, now the shouting is over … We don’t claim this solution is a miracle solution but at least let these two countries implement it.”

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Britain says the plan will deter dangerous crossings of the English Channel in small boats via people smugglers.

This week’s legislation states that some existing UK rights statutes will not apply to the scheme and Rwanda must be treated by British judges as a safe destination.

Sunak has also said he is prepared to ignore orders from European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) enjoining the government from deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Asked how Rwanda would respond if the ECHR imposed an injunction on deportations but Britain ignored it, Mukuralinda said problems around the plan were for London to resolve.

“We don’t have anything to say or criticise … on the internal affairs of the British government,” he said. “If they lose before the courts … Rwanda will accept that decision.”

Britain has already paid Rwanda more than 200 million pounds ($250 million) under the scheme, and to resettle some 300 refugees could cost more than 600 million pounds, the UK parliament’s spending watchdog has said.

Britain said in 2022 that the first migrants to arrive would be temporarily lodged at a 100-bed hostel in Kigali that was previously a home for genocide survivors.