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Kagame offers Europe a way out on migration

Kigali’s attempts to position itself as an international safe haven for asylum-seekers continue apace

Last week, a new batch of 133 asylum-seekers intending to travel to Europe from Libya landed in Rwanda to have their claims processed. A further 60 have since joined them this week as part of the Emergency Transit Mechanism in Rwanda for refugees and asylum-seekers originally set up in 2019, as part of an eventual total of 500 evacuees.

Once the claims are processed, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says, the evacuees will be resettled, returned home or 'may be given permission to remain in Rwanda'.

Last month, the European Union criticised attempts by Denmark to outsource the processing of asylum claims to 'as yet unnamed African countries'. In fact, Brussels officials were fully aware that Copenhagen had opened negotiations with Rwanda on the issue (AC Vol 62 No 12, A new Danelaw). That raises questions of consistency about Brussels' full support for Rwanda's involvement with the Libyan asylum cases.

The ETM was developed by the African Union, EU, and UN as a task force to 'save and protect the lives of refugees and migrants along migratory routes and in particular, inside Libya', the AU said this week. It referred to the 'generous offer' made by President Paul Kagame to host sites in Rwanda (AC Vol 59 No 22, Don't call them transit camps).

Rwanda is not the only one. Niger has an ETM, under which it has hosted 2,900 asylum-seekers, but it is Kagame who has sought to make the most political capital out of processing asylum claims. 

This creates potential conflict with Brussels's policies on human rights and political freedoms, given that the lives of Rwandan dissidents and oppositionists in EU member states have been threatened by suspected state security operatives sent by Kigali. How can the EU and UN criticise Kigali's record when it strongly endorses programmes to send migrants in north Africa to Rwanda?


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