WHAT do Sir Lewis Hamilton, supermodel Naomi Campbell and England football legend Ray Parlour all have in common?
They have all visited Rwanda, appreciating the hospitality of the country’s people and the stunning beauty of the “Land of a Thousand Hills”.
After his visit in 2022, F1 racer Sir Lewis wrote on Instagram: “Rwanda, you are absolutely stunning . . . I fell in love with all the beautiful kids I met along the way. Rwanda, you have my heart.”
What Sir Lewis may not have seen, but what all Rwandans know to be true, is that we are not only hospitable and welcoming to tourists (and indeed world-famous celebrities), but also to those who come to Rwanda seeking sanctuary from war and oppression.
This is why Rwanda continues to be a trusted partner of The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who we work with to bring at-risk Africans stuck in perilous situations in Libya to safety in our country.
In order for us to be deemed a fit and proper country for the UNHCR to work with, we had to show that we met the highest standards when it comes to looking after refugees.
That in our country they are safe and cared for. That is what we have done for those in danger in Libya.
And that is what we will do for those who come to us from Britain.
It is this record which made the UK turn to us for the Migration and Economic Development Partnership.
A UK court has just ruled against an aspect of this policy.
However, this ruling by two judges was on very narrow grounds, focusing only on one issue while rejecting all the other grounds put forward for appeal.
They rejected the policy on the specific point that there was a risk refugees could be returned to their home country from Rwanda, where they could face prosecution or inhumane treatment.
But Rwanda will not do this because we are a signature to the refugee convention and we stick to our legal and moral obligations.
The decision was ultimately the prerogative of the UK’s judicial system.
However, ruling that Rwanda was not a safe “third country” for asylum seekers and refugees, despite our proven track record, was something Rwandans took exception to, and with good reason.
Many British people might know a bit about Rwanda’s tragic past, but what they probably don’t realise is that since the genocide of 29 years ago, Rwanda has transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with annual growth rates of up to eight per cent.
It has become one of the cleanest and greenest countries in the world, as well as one of the safest.
Opening a business can take less than a day, and all nations and peoples are welcome.
The safe, clean, rapidly growing and welcoming Rwanda is the country that the UK decided to partner with to find a solution to the extremely complex migrant issue it faced.
Since we have become a home to refugees from Eritrea, Somalia, Congo and the Middle East, not one of them has been sent back to their home country.
This is because we adhere to those international refugee conventions.
Some are students in local universities and others are business owners.
All of them are safe and enjoying the same freedoms as Rwandans.
Rwanda is proud to host the School of Leadership — Afghanistan, the only Afghan girls’ boarding school in the world. Forced to evacuate Kabul due to the Taliban’s return in 2021, SOLA found a new home in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city.
Today, SOLA is fully operational, classes have resumed and the young girls and their teachers have integrated into the local community.
The UNHCR, as well as other international organisations, has recognised our exemplary treatment of refugees.
The generosity of spirit that Rwandans continue to exhibit is founded on their own lived experience.
Millions of Rwandans have lived as refugees in decades past, forced to flee theirand seek a new life in a new country.
Because of this experience, Rwandans feel a sense of empathy for those forced to flee theirdue to armed conflict, climate change and for economic reasons.
It is because of this sense of empathy that Rwanda signed the Migration and Economic Development Partnership with the United Kingdom.
Protect the vulnerable
We were confident that this partnership would not only help dismantle the business model of the criminal networks of people smugglers but also give vulnerable men and women, risking their lives in small boats in the English Channel, another chance at life in Rwanda.
Our country remains fully committed to mak- ing this partnership work because we understand what is at stake.
The broken global migration system is failing to protect the vulnerable and empowering criminal smuggling gangs at an immeasurable human cost.
Just as we have done for tens of thousands of refugees and migrants before, when the migrants from the UK do arrive, Rwandans will welcome them and provide them the support they need to build new lives.