This 33-year-old man is one of nearly 1,100 migrants welcomed since 2019 as part of a reception program for refugees from Libya.
Rwanda must now receive illegal migrants expelled from the United Kingdom, under an agreement that has drawn condemnation from NGOs, the UN and the Anglican Church.
None have arrived so far, after the first charter was blocked by a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The Rwandan government has assured that it is “ready to offer them security and opportunities” on its soil.
At the Gashora Transit Center, about sixty kilometers from the capital Kigali, no one plans to settle in this small East African state.
They are around 400 migrants, living in brick houses, with at their disposal a cafeteria, basketball and volleyball courts, a driving training circuit – some say they want to become taxi drivers in Europe – and weaving training workshops. and hairdressing.
“In the camp, I have the freedom to do what I want, it’s much better than in Libya. But the speed of processing asylum applications is very slow”, explains Ismail Hmdan Banaga: “I have made several interviews to go to Canada but I have not heard back. The people in charge are not very clear on the follow-up “.
“The fact is that I will not return to Sudan and that I will not stay here all my life. I prefer to leave to try to cross the sea” Mediterranean, he says.
– “Rwanda to the rescue” –
“I regret having come to Rwanda,” said another Sudanese, who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he could not speak freely in the presence of Rwandan officials and the United Nations refugee agency.
He too arrived a year ago and is awaiting news of his asylum application. “If it turns out that they let me down, then it will be better to go back to Libya than to stay here in this humiliation,” he said.
For Zemen Fesaha, on the other hand, the dream has come true.
The asylum application of this 26-year-old Eritrean was accepted a few months ago. “I’m flying next week to Canada, I’m excited,” he smiles, relieved to see his long ordeal come to an end.
He says he tried several times to cross the Mediterranean, paying a total of around $20,000 to smugglers.
“One day the boat overturned and many drowned. I swam for hours with other survivors to shore and we were arrested. They put us in jail and we stayed there for months until Rwanda comes to the rescue”.
Since the start of the program, more than 600 refugees have been resettled in Canada, Finland, France or Sweden.
None have applied for permanent residence in Rwanda, according to UNHCR and local authorities.
“We came to Rwanda to leave, not to stay,” says Nyalada Gatkouth Jany, a South Sudanese whose asylum application Finland has accepted with her one-year-old son.
She left her brother, her mother in the country, tried “four times” to cross the Mediterranean, was in prison, “saw the death of people with (her) own eyes”. “And here we are just sitting like this. We want to work because we want to support them,” she explains.
“Rwanda has been nice to me but I don’t want to stay here,” Tesfay, a 27-year-old Eritrean, also says: “It’s a poor country with its own problems. I can’t leave Eritrea to resettle in Rwanda”.