It is common practice; when European courts examine extradition cases, the debate centers around the conditions in the country where the asylum-seeker is likely to be sent. In the case of Rwanda, the UK government assures everyone that the place is a holiday resort, while NGOs insist Rwanda is hell on earth!
Migrants too do not want to come to Rwanda, as they should! That wasn’t their initial plan, I mean, if they wanted to travel to Rwanda, a country with a popular airline, Rwandair, and a visa-on-arrival policy for all, they would travel to Rwanda! There are even signposts on television and in stadiums across Europe reminding them every weekend to: Visit Rwanda!
With that in mind, they wouldn’t have collected the little extended family’s possessions to set off for the unknown, be kidnapped by Bedouin passers in the Sinai desert or tribal warlords in Libya, who blackmailed their people back home into selling the family plot and livestock to pay the ransom, once released, sail cross the Mediterranean on ramshackle canoes, be rescued and detained on some European island, escape, hitchhike across Europe, cross the Chanel clandestinely, risk their lives countless times, only to be detained in the UK, then shipped back to Africa.
In my past life, I used to work for a UN Special Rapporteur and my job was to interview asylum seekers. Emigrating to Europe isn’t an individual endeavor, it is a collective, family project. Those who finally make it and get papers overseas, have entire communities counting on them.
All these years, Western media has worked so hard to convince people that Africa is hell and Europe is heaven, and we finally believed them! Being shipped to Rwanda, a tiny country in Africa, would be perceived as a failure back in the village. “We know Rwandans, they too used to be refugees here, twenty or so years ago… ‘Nwa anyị adala any!’ Our son has failed us! Adds Isaac Okonkwo, Obi’s father, in Igbo, as he rolls his goad skin and departs the village of Umuofia, leaving behind debts and shame…” Chinua Achebe, “No longer at ease”.
However, the UK doesn’t want any more Black or Arab people. All migrants of darker skin complexion who got caught without papers have been living in detention in the UK. Which poses a basic ideological question! Namely, the moral standing, in 2023, of a rich country with a colonial background, whose wealth was built by the loot from black and brown people’s resources, which is now rejecting its own, members of the “Commonwealth”, subjects of his majesty King Charles the III, of Great Britain.
That is the fundamental question. However, even their own Supreme Court avoided it, because it leads to only one inevitable conclusion; one that the Great British people, high on their horse, cannot live with, and Rwanda is right there, holding a huge mirror in their face; a tiny, poor, post-conflict country at the heart of Africa is willing to offer a haven to people who are mistreated in the country that relentlessly purport to teach moral values to the world. It is a counter-intuitive paradigm shift.
I got called by about ten journalists since the decision yesterday, all wanting to know how Rwandans “reacted to the UK’s supreme court decision.” I failed on my mission to impress on all of them that the issue has nothing to do with Rwanda, it is a British debate. Rwandans didn’t “react”. The country is led by former refugees and Rwandans are used to receiving refugees all the time.
So all their articles preferred to talk about conditions in Rwanda, Rwandan opposition, and human rights in Rwanda, calling it the “Rwanda Deal”, all to avoid the elephant in the room. Europe is going through an existential crisis, and Rwanda is offering the perfect catharsis.