21 APRIL 2022
The New Times (Kigali)
By Edwin Ashimwe
President Paul Kagame has hit back at those who have likened a migration deal recently signed between Rwanda and the UK to trading in human beings.
The UK, through the Migration and Economic Development Partnership, seeks to transfer unauthorised migrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda.
President Kagame, who was speaking virtually at a seminar dubbed, ‘Rwanda Past and Present’, and hosted by Brown University’s Watson Institute, noted that the deal was instead an innovative approach designed to help address the global migration crisis.
He was Wednesday night fielding questions on a wide range of topics during a conversation moderated by Stephen Kinzer, the American author of ‘A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It.’
“We are not trading human beings, please. This is not the case, we are actually helping,” he said. “It’s a clear cut issue and it was actually something of an innovation that Rwanda put forth to deal with this migration issue.”
Kagame said that people need to go a little bit into history to understand the rationale and context of the migration partnership between Rwanda and the UK.
“This problem of dealing with immigrants doesn’t start with what we arrived at as the deal between UK and Rwanda,” he said.
He cited a 2018 decision by Rwanda to help find a solution to a humanitarian crisis involving migrants that had unfolded in Libya.
“These people were stuck in Libya; they were trying to cross into Europe. Some (had) already died trying to cross the Mediterranean, others were kept in prison in Libya, in different cities and they were really stuck,” the Head of State observed.
He added: “At that time, I was the Chairman of the AU (African Union). And when the issue came up to me, I said, ‘well, we are not a rich country, we are not a big country, but there are solutions we can always help find and solve big problems,'” he said.
“So we told those international institutions that ‘we’re trying to deal with the problem… why don’t you actually bring these people (immigrants) to Rwanda?'”
The President also cited the fact that Rwanda has for decades hosted refugees. “They are here, we live with them.”
Rwanda was approached because of that history, and also how the Libyan case was handled, Kagame said.