• Rwanda is to receive 50 refugees two weeks before the Commonwealth summit.
  • Boris Johnson calls them “illegal entry into this country.”
  • Human Rights Watch is concerned about the rights of the LGBTI community and the history of refugee abuse in Rwanda.

Rwanda will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) from 20 to 26 June, accepting 50 refugees deported from the former colonizer, the United Kingdom, a few weeks before the gathering.

The CHOGM, which is usually held every two years, is the highest advisory and political meeting in the Commonwealth, uniting 54 former colonies and territories of the British Empire.

Last month, Kigali and London agreed that people suspected of smuggling into the UK from 1 January this year would be deported back to the East African country.

Despite widespread criticism that critics accuse Britain of “… breaking international obligations to asylum seekers”, the two countries continued to sign the agreement.

In Rwanda, they will be allowed to apply for the right to settle.

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Over the weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that 50 people had been warned of their imminent deportation over the next two weeks.

In an interview with Daily MailJohnson described the 50 as “illegal entrances to the country” and said those opposed to the deportation decision were trying to “… disrupt the will of the people, the will of parliament.”

Before announcing the first group to be deported, the Johnson administration issued an information note on Rwanda stating: “There is no substantial reason to believe that a person in the event of resettlement [to Rwanda]face a real risk of undergoing treatment that is likely to be contrary to Article 3 [of the European Convention on Human Rights]».

Article 3 of the ECHR is a universal declaration that states that “… everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the British government has “chosen” the facts to fit their agenda.

“Report [country assessment] This was expected to reduce human rights violations in Rwanda. After all, the government could not send vulnerable people seeking protection with a one-way ticket to a partner they deemed offensive. But it goes even further, choosing facts or ignoring them altogether to support a predetermined conclusion, ”HRW said.

READ | Mugabe-era Zimbabweans fleeing Botswana lose political refugee status after court ruling

The report also notes that, “… despite some restrictions on freedom of speech and / or freedom of association”, there are “… no substantial grounds” for believing that refugees will be ill-treated. This finding is difficult to compare with Rwanda’s past attitude towards refugees, HRW said.

Rwanda does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or similar unions, and therefore asylum seekers of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTI) orientation may face discrimination.

The UK Home Office acknowledges that Rwanda has “… evidence of discrimination and intolerance against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity or self-expression”, but claims that the abuses are “non-serious”.

In 2018, Rwandan officials killed 12 Congolese refugees during a protest against a reduction in food rations, and police arrested more than 60 people. HRW reported that between October 2018 and September 2019, at least 35 refugees were sentenced to three months to 15 years in prison for a number of crimes, including stealing rations, inciting others and even talking to HRW about their conditions.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hans Seidel Foundation. The stories prepared by the African Bureau, as well as the opinions and statements that may be contained in this article, do not reflect the stories of the Hans Seidel Foundation.

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