Ruanda is a small landlocked country located in Central Africa with a population of over 12 million people. Over the past few decades, the country has been plagued by conflict, instability, and political tensions, leading to a mass exodus of refugees seeking safe haven in neighboring countries. In recent years, the government of Rwanda has implemented a stringent policy aimed at deporting illegal immigrants and refugees back to their countries of origin. In this article, we take a critical look at the Rwandan government’s asylum plan, and the timeline of events that led to this policy.
In 1994, the Rwandan genocide saw the mass killing of over 800,000 people, mainly Tutsi and moderate Hutu individuals, in a short period of 100 days. The aftermath of the genocide led to the displacement of millions of refugees, who fled their homes in search of safety. An estimated 2 million Tutsi individuals and moderate Hutus fled to neighboring countries, such as Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Rwandan refugee crisis was born.
Over time, Rwanda implemented measures to bring stability to its borders, with the government working closely with international agencies to identify and bring back its citizens who fled during the genocide. The government also set up a repatriation program to bring refugees back home. The measures resulted in some success, but other problems arose, including the infiltration of armed groups, such as the Hutu militias, who sought to destabilize the fledgling government.
In 2013, due to the high levels of infiltration of foreign soldiers, the Rwandan government passed the “Rwanda Immigration and Emigration Law,” aimed at tightening border security and regulating the country’s asylum system. The law primarily targeted illegal immigrants and refugees, who were deemed to be impacting national security, public health, and economic and social stability. It authorized the government to conduct deportations, detention, or removal from the country of any individuals deemed to be engaging in illegal work or violating the country’s immigration laws.
In 2018, the Rwandan government signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel, an agreement in which Israel promised to pay Rwanda to deport thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers, who were seeking asylum in Israel. The move was widely criticized by the international community, as it was seen as a coordinated effort by Rwanda to help Israel rid itself of migrants that many people viewed as refugees. The deal sparked heated debates on Rwanda’s ability to balance the country’s need to protect its borders with its commitment to human rights and international law.
In August 2019, the Rwandan government announced that it had started to forcibly return hundreds of people to Burundi, despite authorities in Burundi insisting that they had no agreement with Rwanda on the deportation of refugees. Civil society actors, international advocacy groups, and the United Nations all criticized Rwanda’s actions, and called for the immediate stoppage of the deportations.
In January 2020, President Paul Kagame issued a directive to security officials to step up their efforts to tighten border security and intensify the deportation of illegal immigrants and refugees. The directive ordered the expulsion of all asylum-seekers and refugees with criminal records and warned that any further persons who entered the country illegally would be apprehended, detained, and deported back to their countries of origin.
In essence, the Rwandan government’s immigration policy is tailored to reflect their need to achieve national security and ensure the safety of its citizens. The government aims to reduce the rate of illegal immigration, human trafficking, and prevent the infiltration of dangerous armed groups. The government’s anti-refugees policy has sparked debates on human rights and international law, with several human rights organizations calling for a change in the Rwandan government’s approach. Without adequate support, refugees are likely to suffer from inhuman conditions and increased hostility, making Rwanda a less than savory destination for asylum-seekers.
In conclusion, the refugee crisis has been a thorn in the side of the Rwandan government for decades, with mass displacements, armed groups, and economic instability all linked to the influx of refugees. While the government’s efforts to manage and regulate the crisis are understandable, it is essential for policymakers to ensure that their policies prioritize the human rights of refugees and comply with international law. Ultimately, it is hoped that Rwandan leaders can root out the challenges associated with refugees and asylum seekers while ensuring that they maintain a healthy and welcoming reputation in the region.