Rwanda spent weeks preparing to receive asylum seekers from Britain.
The country is a beautiful, idyllic east African country with rolling hills and lush landscapes. It has received PS120m to house the migrants.
The policy is a collaborative effort of all those involved.
After they arrive at Kigali International Airport The Hope Hostel will be their home.
The guest house has 50 rooms and is surrounded by hills. Ismail Bakina, the manager, showed me how they have tried to make it as comfortable as possible for guests when they arrive.
There are many amenities in the rooms. You can also find computer labs, laundry areas, and a games area.
Notably, Arabic signage is everywhere. This is a sign that the asylum seekers could be from the Middle East.
He also includes a gift shop, which is stocked with cigarettes and underwear.
The Rwandan government representatives echo his confidence, whose message is simple. Give us a chance.
Yolande Makolo, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told me that these are people and should be treated in dignified spaces.
Later that day, in a press conference, she made parallels between the bringing in asylum seekers from Britain and a UN-established transit camp. We’ve been there.
Gashora is 40 miles away from Kigali.
It has been home to more than 1,000 people since 2019, after they fled Libya and attempted crossing the Mediterranean.
There are three options for people in Rwanda. You can either go to Canada or Sweden, or you could stay in Rwanda.
No one has yet chosen to remain in Rwanda.
“If I was willing to stay here, then I should go back to Libya”
Peter, 29 years old, fled torture by smugglers. His arms still bear scars from the beatings they administered to him.
The UN will soon send him to Finland to help him realize his dream of becoming a lawyer and returning to school.
He knew that he couldn’t stay in Rwanda.
He said, “If I was willing to stay here in Rwanda,” he added. “I won’t do that. It will be a final mistake to do it.”
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According to the organisations that support asylum seekers arriving from the UK, they feel the same way as the people they help. However, they only have one-way tickets.
Rwanda will be their destination. They will have to find work and build a new life in Rwanda if they don’t return to their home country.
This will be difficult in densely populated countries with a five-fold higher unemployment rate than the UK.
“It’s a matter for survival”
Gilbert, a Burundi refugee who we met at his market stand, is one example of someone whose experience may be similar to theirs.
He hid behind dark sunglasses and muted tones to tell me that the stall wasn’t about making money. It was about survival.
Although he has lived in the country for five year, he never found steady employment.
People don’t trust refugees when they’re searching for work. He said that they don’t trust you as you don’t have their nationality. It’s difficult to find work.”
“We don’t feel strangers here”
We heard a different story in a trendy neighborhood with gated homes and tree-lined houses.
After fleeing war in Yemen, Sanaa, now 39, came to this country three years ago.
The cafe she opened now employs 15 people. She is happy in Rwanda.
It is a land of opportunities, she believes.
“People are so friendly, we didn’t feel like strangers. It’s safe. It has clean and friendly people.”
The British and Rwandan governments hope that the people who arrive here will have similar experiences to hers. However, it is clear that there is no guarantee.