Why did the UK choose Rwanda? Inside troubled past and new ‘common ground’

GMB: Richard Madeley grills Truss on Rwanda deal

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Boris Johnson said asylum seekers would have the chance to build a new life “in that dynamic country” when announcing the Rwanda scheme in April. The republic in East Africa has around 13 million people living there and is neighboured by Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.

But Rwanda has had a troubled past and was home to one of the most brutal genocides in history.

The UN estimates the tragic events of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi killed more than one million people.

It is from this violent past that Rwanda set up a special branch of government to work with border control and police forces around the world to find genocide suspects.

The country has also spent years improving political ties with western countries and joined the Commonwealth in 2009, of which the Queen is the Head.

Experts have said the agreement shows the UK and Rwanda have found common ground on immigration policy.

Nicola Palmer, a Reader in Criminal Law at King’s College London, explained that the migration deal with the UK also benefits Rwanda.

Writing in Oxford University’s Border Criminologies blog, Dr Palmer wrote that the agreement “offers [Rwanda] opportunities for leverage with powerful states.”

Rwanda has also been a destination country for refugees fleeing conflict in other African states.

In May last year, thousands of refugees entered Rwanda from Congo after volcanic eruptions in the border town of Goma.

But international organisations are concerned about how asylum seekers will be treated in the country.

Amnesty’s report on Rwanda in 2021 highlighted allegations of torture as well as violations of the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression.

It also noted that the country has continued to use enforced disappearances and many cases of people disappearing are unsolved.

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These are the issues opponents of the policy say should prevent any deportations to Rwanda from going ahead.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss confirmed today the first flight to Rwanda from the UK for migrants will happen despite an 11th-hour legal challenge yesterday at the Court of Appeal.

Tackling rising immigration is one of the Government’s top priorities and it hopes the agreement with Rwanda will reduce border crossings over the English Channel.

A number of landings in Britain from France continue to be made with 138 people detected in small boat crossings on Monday alone.

In 2021, 28,526 people were detected arriving in Britain on small boats according to Government figures, up from 8,466 in 2020.

Of these arrivals, 75 percent were men aged 18 to 39 years old.

The Prime Minister said the Rwanda agreement was made possible by Brexit freedoms and will provide safe routes for asylum.

But it remains unclear how deported migrants will be treated in Rwanda and how many will ever return to the UK.

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