24 February 2018

Rwanda: African Immigrants Welcome to Kigali, But Law Applies - Govt

Rwanda has reiterated its willingness to accept African immigrants from Israel only if the process is in accordance with international laws.

The development comes amid reports that Israel has given refugees two options -- go to Rwanda or go to jail.

Reports indicate that the first group of seven African immigrants who refused to be deported to Rwanda were sent to jail this week. Hundreds of others in the Holot detention facility have started a hunger strike in protest of the decision to jail the asylum seekers.

In a statement on Friday, Kigali said it remains committed to the "open door" policy on refugees but said the internal process of how they are deported is Israel's business.

"As President Kagame recently reiterated -- in the context of migrants from Israel -- Rwanda will only receive refugees 'in accordance with International Law,'" a statement from the office of the government spokesperson Louise Mushikiwabo says. "Therefore, any suggestion, explicit or implicit, that certain groups of migrants are presented with two options: 'Go to Rwanda or go to jail,' would be wrong and offensive."

The government statement further explains that as a matter of practice and policy, Rwanda's position on migrants and refugees has been to open its doors to any Africans in need of shelter.

Kigali said the policy is borne out of the history and the life lived by many Rwandans, as well as the country's national values.

"Over the past several years, Rwanda has welcomed approximately 180,000 migrants from different African countries, including neighbouring countries, with the assistance of the United Nations. Recently, Rwanda offered to host 30,000 victims of human trafficking in Libya," the government statement says.

Human-rights groups have accused both Rwanda and Uganda of entering a deal with Israel to accept the over 40,000 African asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, in return for favours from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

However, both countries deny the existence of a formal deal, but Rwanda says it can only accept refugees who repatriate voluntarily. Watchdogs allege that hundreds have already been sent to the two countries since 2014, but they are not accorded refugee status.


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