Afghan refugees in Rwanda, all the contradictions of a country defined as 'safe': but the idea of sending them there makes everyone agree
ROME - At least 250 girls from a school in Kabul had already been moved to Kigali via Doha in August 2021 after the return of the Taliban. But the government of the African country uses the relocations to shield itself from allegations of violence even outside its borders. Thousands of Afghan refugees detained in the Gulf in inhumane conditions. Rwanda has become one of the countries where Western states prefer to send Afghan refugees when they are not stuck in third countries or sent back, as Turkey and Iran do. More and more asylum seekers are relocated to Africa (also thanks to the support of United Nations agencies), but in states that are not immune from criticism of human rights violations.
Afghans in Rwanda. Soon after the return of the Taliban, in August 2021, around 250 female boarding school students Afghanistan School of Leadership (SOLA), already evacuated to Doha, Qatar, had been transferred to Kigali so that they could continue to study, given that for two years the girls who remained in Afghanistan can no longer do so. In the same period, Uganda also received over 2,000 Afghan refugees at the request of the United States government.
Forbidden to seek asylum in Great Britain. The idea of sending Afghan refugees to Rwanda is now being floated once again also by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. At the beginning of the month, in fact, the Premier announced a bill to prevent migrants crossing the English Channel from seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. London intends to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda or a "safe third country" in order to "counter illegal immigration," Sunak said. And this despite the fact that one in five people arriving by sea in the UK in 2022 was Afghan, a nationality who is granted political asylum in 98 per cent of cases due to persecution and human rights violations by the Taliban.
Is Rwanda a safe country? Even without going into the juridical plots that distinguish the various types of international protection from irregular immigration and without assessing whether or not the British government's decision violates the Refugee Conventions to which London is a signatory, it is difficult to pigeonhole Rwanda (along with Uganda, Sudan and Somaliland, all African nations that have offered to welcome Afghan refugees) in the category of "safe countries".
The Threat of Paul Kagame. In the past, Rwandan President Paul Kagame had threatened to expel refugees already in the country if the international community criticized the activities of his government, led by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which came to power after the 1994 genocide. 127,000 refugees, according to data provided by theUNHCR.
The abuses of rights. Human Rights Watch he criticized the party's campaign against political opponents, who were often arbitrarily detained and tortured. But the violent actions of the Rwandan government also extend beyond its borders, affecting dissidents and members of the diaspora even abroad and supporting the rebel group M23 on a military level, which fights against the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo especially in the North region Kivu.
The temporary solution for activists. Shabana Basij-Rasikh, teacher, women's rights activist and founder of SOLA, in August 2021, documenting the relocation of Afghan female students on Twitter, had defined it as a "non-permanent resettlement", a sort of "semester abroad". before I can go home to Afghanistan.
The idea that makes everyone agree. However, things went differently and in the end sending Afghan refugees to Rwanda is a solution that everyone agrees on: Afghan girls can continue to study, the United States can feel less guilty for having abandoned the country to the Taliban after twenty years of war and African governments can clean up their image in the eyes of the international community hoping that no sanctions or restrictions will be imposed on them for the humanitarian aid they are taking on.
Afghans in the Gulf. The issue of Afghan refugees then arises in a similar way in the Gulf: 2,700 people have been parked in the United Arab Emirates for 15 months, where they have no possibility of accessing legal paths to obtain refugee status. Also in this case, responding to the request of the US State Department to accept asylum seekers before they are resettled in the United States, the Abu Dhabi authorities have locked up the refugees in a place called Emirates Humanitarian City, which according to witnesses, however, is overcrowded , dilapidated and infested with insects. A Human Rights Watch report also claims that most of the detainees suffer from depression.
In Afghanistan. Things continue to get worse, and not only from a humanitarian point of view: according to a report by the Global Terrorism Index released in recent days, the country is the one with the highest number of attacks in the world for the fourth consecutive year. The latest, recently launched by the local branch of the Islamic State (IS-K), hit a group of journalists in Mazar-i Sharif, the capital of the province of Balkh, in the north of the country: the Taliban confiscated their cell phones and the survivors, perhaps to give the impression of having the situation under control and to prevent the news from being spread abroad.