Rwandan President Paul Kagame says his country is not “trading human beings”, in his his first comments on Rwanda’s deal with the UK on migrants.
Under the deal, asylum seekers arriving in the UK on small boats will be relocated to Rwanda for processing and resettlement.
The controversial £120m ($15m) deal has made global headlines and the authorities in both countries have faced criticism.
Mr Kagame – who was on a visit to Congo-Brazzaville, Jamaica, and Barbados when the deal was signed – said it would be a mistake to think Rwanda was just getting money for migrants.
“We are not trading human beings, please, we are actually helping,” he said during a virtual seminar with US’s Brown University.
Mr Kagame said the UK approached Rwanda because of “what we managed in the Libyan case”.
He said he decided in 2018 when he chaired the African Union that Rwanda would offer shelter to migrants stuck in Libya while trying to cross to Europe.
Nearly 1,000 migrants have since been taken to Rwanda for processing, with two-thirds of them being relocated to European countries and Canada.
Mr Kagame praised this as a successful process for the UK and other European countries “who have problems of migration”.
He said Rwanda was helping to deal with migrant smuggling, noting that the UK wanted “an orderly way of sorting out people they’ll accept and others they can say no”.
Two opposition parties in Rwanda have called the deal “unrealistic” and called on the government to focus on local problems instead of solving the “burdens of rich countries”.
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