The first migrants to arrive in Rwanda under the UK’s radical new deal to curb Channel crossings will be offered the chance to rebuild their lives in the east African nation.
The group will most likely be flown into a private terminal at Kigali’s international airport before being taken straight to accommodation at Hope Hostel – where they will be given a chance to rest, eat and settle in, as well as being tested for Covid-19, before they are processed.
According to the Rwandan government, this is the only facility being used for initial accommodation under the plan so far.
Spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said they are in discussions with five or six more establishments in the capital city including the Desir Hotel, also known as Rouge by Desir, and the Hallmark Residences for use for accommodation in the future.
The government aspires to provide “clean, modern accommodation” with basic facilities and a safe space, she added.
Hope Hostel can sleep 100 people, although plans for expansion could see another accommodation block built on the site.
A large tent has been erected next door and is understood to be where the processing will take place.
Within 24 hours of arrival, migrants will be granted a three-month residency in Rwanda while their immigration status is decided.
The immigration department will submit a file for the consideration committee within 15 days, after which a decision is expected to be reached within a further 45 days, Doris Uwicyeza, chief technical adviser to the Rwandan Ministry of Justice, said.
The new arrivals will not need to submit an asylum claim, but those who do will have this considered in the first instance.
Anyone without an asylum claim, or one that is rejected, will then be considered under wider immigration rules with a view to provide a right to residency and to work.
The government said it had boosted staff numbers and resources to make the process as efficient as possible and hopes to consider claims within three months.
While their immigration status is determined, migrants will take part in an “orientation” programme to help them adjust to their new life in Rwanda – if they choose to stay – with information about the country such as the weather and geography as well as a tour of the area.
Food and accommodation will be provided and paid for, with sports, games and other activities laid on.
Migrants will also be given a monthly allowance of 100,000RWF a month (roughly £90) to help pay for essentials. Meanwhile they will be given access to language classes and translation services as well as legal advice.
It is unclear whether they will be subject to a curfew or face any other restrictions if they leave the premises or what would happen if they are considered to have left the accommodation altogether, with officials saying the details are still being finalised.
But Ms Makolo said the government would not want them to become “lost, hungry or destitute” and that social workers and counsellors would be made available for support.
Anyone appealing a decision will be given 30 days to do so and can seek their own legal advice – from a list of lawyers accredited by the Rwandan Bar Association – which they will have to pay for if it is not offered pro-bono, the government spokeswomen said.
If the appeal reaches the country’s high court, the government will provide legal representation free of charge.
The support package – including healthcare, food and accommodation as well as the monthly allowance – will continue to be provided until the person in question is able to support themselves.
Later on, they will be moved to other accommodation in the community.
For those who decide to leave the country, a flight back to their home country or elsewhere where they have a right to residency will be arranged for them by the government.
Ms Uwicyeza said the government recognised the important role refugees and migrants play in the “cultural fabric of society”, adding: “We do not want to bring people here to put them in a situation of illegality. We want people to be legal residents of Rwanda.”
The government said they are anticipating families may arrive in Rwanda under the deal in future and are making plans for suitable accommodation and arrangements, with education offered to children. But typically, they are expecting to mostly receive migrants who are single men.
Responding to concerns which have been raised by some about the risk of malaria in the country, Ms Makolo said the country had a “strong” anti-malaria programme and numbers had fallen “dramatically” in recent years but nets, medication and other preventative measures are taken.
Ms Makolo added: “Rwanda has a record of caring for refugees and welcoming migrants and will be able to provide not just the safe haven these people are looking for, but the opportunity to build new lives here and develop alongside Rwandans.”
Discussions are continuing being the Rwandan and Danish governments over the prospect of establishing a similar arrangement.