KIGALI, Rwanda — On the second day of her trip to Rwanda, British Home Secretary Suella Braverman took part in laying the foundation stone for the construction of homes that are meant to accommodate deported migrants from the UK.
The project with more than 500 housing units, which will be constructed under the UK deportation deal, includes recreational facilities and an early childhood development center, according to Rwanda’s Infrastructure Ministry.
Braverman described the groundbreaking event as “a big step forward in Rwanda increasing its existing capacity to accommodate refugees and provide humanitarian support to thousands of people around the country.”
The master plan “represents a good example of high-quality housing, a variety of units of different sizes to accommodate different family sizes,” she said.
Braverman had arrived in the East African nation on Saturday and met with Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta in the capital Kigali. She underlined her government’s commitment to the deportation deal signed last year.
“There is a global migration crisis with many countries grappling with unprecedented numbers of irregular migrants. I sincerely believe in this partnership in finding a solution which is humanitarian, compassionate, fair and balanced,” Braverman told journalists at a joint press briefing with Biruta.
She said the two countries signed an addendum to the agreement “which will expand the provision of support to people being relocated to Rwanda” and would make Britain “able to relocate anyone who arrives illegally.”
Her predecessor Priti Patel struck a deal in April 2022, under which illegal immigrants and asylum seekers are to be sent to Rwanda to have their claims processed there.
Last week, Braverman said the government had “initiated discussions” with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), following its intervention last year to block plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda amid criticism.
The UK paid Rwanda €120 million ($146 million) upfront to facilitate the implementation of the five-year agreement which the British government hopes could help deter migrants from making the risky journey across the English Channel on small boats.
Legal challenge in UK Court of Appeal
In June 2022, the European Court of Human Rights issued an injunction barring the British government from its attempt to send migrants to Rwanda.
Last December, judges at the UK’s High Court ruled that the government’s plan to send asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda is lawful.
But the court also criticized the government for failing to properly assess the circumstances of the eight individuals it tried to move under the scheme earlier that year.
The deal faces another legal challenge in the UK Court of Appeal.
More than 44,000 migrants arrived in the UK across the Channel last year.
On Saturday, Braverman toured Bwiza Riverside Estate in the capital, one of the residences supposed to accommodate refugees.
Biruta said the partnership presents a “new model that would help to address the root causes of the global migration crisis.”
But the deal has been criticized by some politicians and rights defenders.
Ahmednasir Abdullahi, a Kenya-based constitutional lawyer, on Saturday said on Twitter that the “rental silver coins” the UK pays the Rwanda government “isn’t worth turning Rwanda into British concentration Camps for Refugees from the third world.”
“This rental transaction is plainly despicable,” he said.
But Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo dismissed the criticism, saying: “There will be no ‘concentration camps’ in Rwanda and there is nothing despicable about offering vulnerable people a safe home.”