The Rwandan government on Tuesday again defended the controversial agreement to receive migrants deported from the United Kingdom, saying it was ready to receive « thousands » under the program described as « innovative.
At a press conference in the Rwandan capital Kigali, government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said the agreement, criticized by the UN and human rights organizations, was a « solution to a failing global asylum system.
« People can have their opinion on this program depending on where they come from or how it is described in the media. But for us, it’s about being part of a solution to a failing global asylum system, » she said.
The government spokeswoman said she did not know the « exact number at the moment » of migrants expected to arrive as the first charter is scheduled to take off later this evening, according to migrant advocacy groups.
« We are happy to receive thousands during the duration of this program. Our president has in the past pledged to take in more than 30,000, so we have the capacity to do so, » she said.
Following various individual appeals filed in the British courts, only seven migrants are expected to depart on this charter, according to the association Care4Calais, while the authorities initially intended to send up to 130 (Iranians, Iraqis, Albanians or Syrians).
« We do not consider that living in Rwanda is a punishment (…) We will do our best to ensure that migrants are taken care of and able to build a life here, » added Ms. Makolo.
By sending asylum seekers who arrived illegally in the United Kingdom to the East African country, more than 6,000 kilometers from London, the government intends to deter illegal crossings of the English Channel, which have been increasing despite its repeated promises to control immigration since the Brexit.