Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said Tuesday that a controversial deal with Britain to take in migrants could be extended to other countries as the asylum system is “broken.”
Kagame, who is to host the Commonwealth summit in Kigali this week, said he believed the British deal could still go ahead despite being blocked by the European Court of Human Rights.
Britain has wanted to send some migrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda, in a proposal criticized by the UN refugee agency, rights groups and British church leaders.
Earlier this month, the first flight carrying asylum seekers was cancelled following a European court ruling.
But Rwanda’s veteran president told the Qatar Economic Forum: “I think the agreement is still on and may be implemented as well.”
Kagame said Rwanda has been hosting more than 100,000 refugees for decades, “so we are not new to this problem.”
“In fact most Rwandans have experienced being a refugee at some point in their lives. We know what it means and we are doing this for the right reasons.”
Kagame highlighted his country’s experience in giving “safe haven” to more than 1,000 people from Libya with help of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“The arrangement with the UK is really connected to that experience. There is no doubt that the asylum system is broken and it needs innovative solutions and we are happy to be contributing to those solutions.”
He added that when Britain approached Rwanda, “we talked about it, we looked at all the merits and thought it was something we could try to help out on as we have done in the past.”
Kagame said the model could be used with other countries.
“We need to try something new. What has been in place has not worked very well and that is why people are complaining about all kinds of things and we are seeing increased migration.”
“We need to really take a new look at the problem.”
Kagame said other solutions were possible but insisted “the problem has been running for a long time and hasn’t been sorted out.”
Rwanda will host the Commonwealth summit on Friday and Saturday, and Kagame praised the 54-nation group.
He said it helps “direct attention to challenges” facing smaller, developing countries, and that there would be “meaningful” meetings at the summit.
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