Rwandan government officials have accused critics of depicting Africa as a “hell-hole” which is “poor, and full of disease” with no opportunities.
Yolande Makolo said the country’s deal with the UK is a way to give youngsters the chance to build a life and “make it” in the east African nation.
Asked by reporters why some migrants living in Rwanda said they do not want to stay there, the government’s spokeswoman said: “We all live here. We don’t think of living in Rwanda as a punishment or something bad. I don’t see why anyone would.”
During the briefing on Friday she suggested some people think “the streets are paved with gold” in Europe, or in richer countries, claiming: “Part of the reason is this narrative that is cast by different media that Africa is basically a hell-hole and that it is a terrible place to live, which isn’t true.”
People have their own reasons and “dreams” about where they want to go, she said, adding: “I think this is partly affected or influenced by the kind of stories that cast Western countries as better than Africa, as Africa being a place that is poor and full of disease and no opportunities. And I think that is incorrect.
“There are some disadvantages, we have limited means, but we are working on it.
“This partnership that we have with the UK is one way to increase the number of opportunities for young Africans and people from around the world to live here and then make it here.”
Last month Ms Makolo described criticism of the plan to send migrants from the UK to Rwanda as “insulting” and claimed there is a narrative that Africa is a “shithole, for want of a better word”, adding: “And it’s not true.”
At the time she said opponents were “missing the bigger picture” about the efforts being made to improve the standard of living in the country and offer better opportunities so they do not lose their young people to “Europe” as well as provide a safe haven for refugees.
When the deal was announced in April, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said thousands of migrants could be removed to Rwanda over the course of an initial five-year agreement.
We do not want to create statelessness or a revolving door of migrants
Doris Uwicyeza Picard, Rwandan government adviser
Reporters were told on Friday that the country has the capacity to accommodate 200 migrants at present but stands ready to “scale up” the operation quickly to meet the numbers arriving.
Hope Hostel in Kigali, which sleeps 100, is ready to house migrants, and officials are in negotiations with other hotels in and around the capital city. There are also plans for “infrastructure developments”, they said.
Doris Uwicyeza Picard, chief adviser to Rwanda’s justice minister, said: “We are ready to accommodate as many (migrants) as the UK is willing to send.”
She stressed Rwanda is “not a prison state” and repeated assurances that authorities will not be able to stop migrants leaving the country if they wish – giving rise to questions over whether some may try to make their way back to the UK again.
The government will help people return to their country of origin, or another where they have a right to reside, if they choose, she said, adding: “We do not want to create statelessness or a revolving door of migrants.”