First modification: 23/06/2022 – 19:04
Kigali (AFP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended Thursday in Rwanda the agreement reached with Kigali to send illegal migrants from the United Kingdom to the African country, calling on opponents to “keep an open mind.”
On the first day of his visit to the country, which is hosting a Commonwealth summit at the weekend, Johnson praised Rwandan President Paul Kagame for his stewardship despite criticism over the human rights situation.
The agreement between the United Kingdom and Rwanda, which allows London to deport asylum seekers to the African country, is the subject of strong opposition and is blocked by a last minute decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
“Critics need to keep an open mind about this program,” Johnson told reporters after a visit to a Kigali school.
“What the critics of this program have to understand, and I have seen a lot of criticism, is that Rwanda has undergone a total transformation in the last two decades,” the prime minister said.
Human rights groups, religious leaders and also institutions such as the UN have criticized the agreement on migrants.
According to the British press, Prince Charles opposes the government’s plan and privately called it “appalling”.
No migrants have yet been expelled from the UK, after the first plane to Kigali was blocked on June 14 by an ECHR decision.
The British government introduced a bill to Parliament on Wednesday to bypass the Court’s jurisdiction.
In Johnson, he accused his critics of basing their criticism on “perceptions and stereotypes that Rwanda has outgrown.”
This small East African country is indelibly scarred by the genocide it suffered in 1994, but is now posting high growth rates that have earned it praise, though it is frequently criticized for its human rights policy.
In an open letter to Commonwealth leaders, 23 civil society and human rights organizations said there was a “climate of fear” in Rwanda.
For these organizations, the Commonwealth stakes its credibility by organizing its summit in Kigali.
The Commonwealth groups 54 member states, including 15 kingdoms, many of them former territories of the British Empire, which includes 2.6 billion people, that is, a third of humanity.
© 2022 AFP