As the first deportation flight prepared to leave Britain, Yolande Makolo said they did not believe that being sent to her country should be regarded as a “punishment” by the migrants.
Speaking at a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kigali, she said Rwanda had entered into its controversial arrangement with the UK for “the right reasons”.
She said they expected to receive “thousands” of migrants over the lifetime of the partnership which will see the UK invest £120 million in growth and development in Rwanda as well as picking up the re-settlement costs.
“Rwanda has a strong record of providing safety for those in danger. Tomorrow, when the first flight lands here in Kigali, the new arrivals will be welcomed and will be looked after and supported to make new lives here,” she said.
“We will provide support with their asylum applications, including legal support and translation services. We will provide decent accommodation and look after all their essential needs.
“Rwanda has a record of caring for refugees and welcoming migrants and will be able to provide not just a safe haven these people are looking for, but the opportunity to build new lives here and develop alongside Rwandans.”
Ms Makolo rejected a complaint by the Archbishop of Canterbury that the policy was “immoral”, insisting Rwanda wanted to help tackle the global migration crisis by undermining the activities of the people traffickers encouraging asylum seekers to make the dangerous Channel crossing.
We don’t think it’s immoral to offer a home to people
“We don’t think it’s immoral to offer a home to people,” she said.
“We were doing this for the right reasons. We understand that there might be opposition to this but we are asking them to give this programme a chance because it’s a solution.
“There are not many solutions, people are suffering, the asylum system is broken and being taken advantage of by criminal gangs that exploit people making false promises.
“People are risking their lives in these dangerous crossings, so something has to give and we are happy to be working on this solution with our UK partners.”
Some migrants have reportedly said they would rather kill themselves rather than be sent to country amid concerns over its human rights record under President Paul Kagame.
However Ms Makolo said such concerns reflected “misconceptions” about Africa which do not “reflect the reality”.
“We do not consider living in Rwanda a punishment … we do our best to provide a conducive environment for Rwandans to develop and for anyone else who comes to live here with us,” she said.