Rwanda ‘more akin to detention camp than sovereign state’, says ex-ambassador

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A former Rwandan ambassador to the US has warned the Government that the East African country is “more akin to a detention camp than a state where the people are sovereign”, as controversial immigration reforms edge closer to becoming law.

Theogene Rudasingwa, who was the country’s representative in the US from 1996 to 1999, has been in exile in America since 2004 after falling out with Rwandan president Paul Kagame.

The British Government has said it trusts Rwanda to treat the asylum seekers sent there humanely, Dr Rudasingwa said.

“As a Rwandan with decades of political and diplomatic experience my view is that under the regime of President Kagame such trust is unfounded,” Dr Rudasingwa said.

“Notwithstanding Rwanda’s history, the world must be under no illusion as to the truth. Rwanda is hostage to the Kagame dictatorship and is more akin to a detention camp than a state where the people are sovereign.”

It comes after senior Conservative MPs questioned the logic behind the Nationality and Borders Bill, which would allow the UK to send asylum seekers to a “safe third country” and to submit claims at a “designated place” determined by the Secretary of State.

Tory MP Simon Hoare (North Dorset) on Wednesday said: ““I fail to see how moving people to Rwanda is going to in any way disrupt this money-making scheme which these people traffickers have. They’re just going to use different routes to land people on our shores.”

Meanwhile, Conservative former minister Sir Bob Neill suggested investing the money intended for the Rwanda immigration deal into improving the UK’s system for handling claims.

In a letter to the editor of The Times on Saturday, Dr Rudasingwa said: “So egregious are human rights abuses in Rwanda that Britain last year joined international criticism of unlawful killings, torture and other violence.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Vincent Biruta, signed a “world-first” migration and economic development partnership
The deal, shown being signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan foreign affairs minister Vincent Biruta, is worth £120 million (Flora Thompson/PA)

“Only months later it seems all this has been forgotten by Boris Johnson so that a transfer deal can be cut.

“Writing now as a refugee, rootless yet constantly under threat of retaliation by a spiteful regime, I feel for outsiders who battle to reach Britain only to face rendition to the Kagame state.

“For those poor souls it will be a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire.”

A £120 million economic deal has been struck with Rwanda and cash for each removal is expected to follow.

The Bill is currently at the stage known as parliamentary ping-pong – where a piece of legislation moves between the two Houses until agreement on the wording can be reached.

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