In Rwanda, Locals Are Buying Homes Earmarked For Asylum Seekers From The UK

A 'sold' sign outside a housing unit at the Bwiza Riverside Estate on April 06, 2024 in Kigali, Rwanda. In March 2023, the British home secretary at the time, Suella Braverman, toured the Bwiza Riverside Estate telling reporters that the units would house asylum seekers deported from the UK, but that now seems unlikely.

Homes earmarked for asylum seekers deported from the UK to Rwanda are being sold off before they even arrive.

The Times reported that units in the Bwiza Riverside Estate have been bought by local people as delays continue to dog the government’s flagship immigration scheme.

Photographs show ‘sold’ signs outside some of the homes, which were praised by former home secretary Suella Braverman when she visited Rwanda last year.

She said at the time: “These houses are really beautiful — great quality, really welcoming — and I really like your interior designer.”

But Hassan Adan Hassan, the managing director of the company behind the development, said: “Currently we’ve sold almost 70% of affordable homes. We are left with some units. Electricity is connected to the houses. Water and fibre optic are connected to the houses. The roads and street lights are done.”

On LBC this morning, Braverman said she was “disappointed” that the homes were being sold before any asylum seekers have had the chance to live in them.

She said: “When I went to Rwanda I visited some of the housing complexes and the construction work was progressing steadily then.

“I’m disappointed to read that expectations have fallen and that the Rwandans are now selling off some of those properties because the way the plan should work ... was that we need to have a large number of flights going to Rwanda on a regular basis with a large number of passengers on board.”

Yolande Makolo, the chief government spokesperson, told The Times: “It is simply not true that 70% of the houses are sold.

“Regardless, Bwiza Riverside estate is just one of the housing options where migrants will live alongside Rwandans. None of the assigned housing estates were ever meant to be only for migrants.

“The idea is to integrate migrants into Rwandan communities, not create migrant ghettos.’’

KIGALI, RWANDA - MARCH 19: British Home Secretary Suella Braverman (L) and Rwandan Infrastructure Minister Ernest Nsabimana (R) attend the groundbreaking ceremony of houses to be built for illegal migrants in Kigali, Rwanda on March 19, 2023. The British government plans to start migrant deportation flights to Rwanda by the summer, according to local media reports on Saturday. (Photo by Cyril Ndegeya/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said: “The half a billion-pound Rwanda scheme is a failing farce, which will only cover less than one per cent of asylum arrivals.

“Now it seems there will be even less capacity to house those that are removed. The Tories’ so-called plan is unravelling by the day and taxpayers are footing the bill.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “As the government of Rwanda have made repeatedly clear, they stand ready to hosts thousands of migrants under the Partnership.

“The scheme is uncapped and provisions are in place to provide accommodation as required. We remain focussed on getting flights off the ground as soon as possible.”

The government first announced its plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda two years ago, but not a single person has yet been sent to the country.

Rishi Sunak has said the policy is vital to his pledge to stop the small boats carrying migrants across the Channel from France.

MPs and peers will once again vote on his flagship Safety of Rwanda Bill later this month, which could pave the way to the first flights taking off in May or June.