‘All are welcome in Rwanda if Britain wins migrant case’
Kigali confident of Supreme Court result
THE sign hanging near the entrance to Hope House in the Rwandan capital of Kigali goes out of its way to be friendly.
‘Come as a guest, leave as a friend,’ it says.
But no one knows for certain what type of ‘guest’ will be checking into this former hostel in the Gasabo district of the city.
The Government plans for Hope House to be where asylum seekers arriving illegally in Britain would be sent as part of a controversial £140million deal last year with the land-locked East African country.
If the Supreme Court gives the go- ahead – its ruling on the scheme’s legality is expected before Christmas – the first flights could start in February.
Which might explain why, amid tight security, there is a flurry of activity at the 50-room hotel. The grass has been mowed, shrubs and hedges cut, and the reception area painted.
Metal fences have been put up around the perimeter of the property but my request to see the rooms was flatly declined. Despite the uncertainty, Rwanda remains confident its arrangement with the Government will be given the green light.
Francis Gatare, a Kigali government official who is also chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board, said: ‘When this programme goes through and the migrants come to live in Rwanda, they will be at home.
‘Rwanda has been welcoming refugees for decades but also participating with the UN Refugee Council to repatriate stranded refugees from Libya.’ Speaking at a world travel and tourist summit, Mr Gatare added that Kigali, which was visited by Home Secretary Suella Braverman this year, has ‘ become multicultural’ and migrants who are allowed to stay in the country ‘would be joining an international community’.
They will also be joining a country whose prosperity – fuelled in part by a rapid growth in tourism – is increasing. The Rwandan economy is reportedly growing faster than any other African country. It is thought that migrants from Britain would stay for three months at hotels such as Hope House while their claims are processed. If successful, they would be allowed to remain in Rwanda for at least five years, during which they would receive support and training for a variety of jobs.
There remains a shortage of male workers in the country.
However, questions have been raised about human rights. But the country’s president, Paul Kagame, who has been in power since 2000, said: ‘We are a united, peaceful and friendly country.’
As the Rwandan Patriot Front leader, Mr Kagame defeated Hutu forces to end the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where as many as 800,000 people died.
Former home secretary Priti Patel visited Hope House last year when double rooms cost as little as £11.50 a night – and a single room with a shared bathroom £6.20 a night.
Conditions, no doubt, will be greatly improved by the time any migrants arrive.
It remains unclear, however, if it is Rwanda or Britain which is paying for the refurbishment of Hope House.
÷ Yesterday Mrs Braverman visited Alexandroupolis – on the north- eastern Greek border with Turkey – to view surveillance facilities and learn how Athens’ security forces are monitoring the land frontier with their neighbours.
‘They will feel at home’