In 2019, as part of an agreement with the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the African Union, Rwanda agreed to take in hundreds of African migrants being held in appalling conditions in detention centers in Libya.
There was applause .
In August 2021, as America’s 20-year military and state-building campaign in Afghanistan descended into chaos, Rwanda and Uganda in Africa agreed to take in Afghan refugees.
< p>Among the Afghans , who relocated to Rwanda to escape the Taliban’s well-known hostility to women’s education, all 250 students were at the famous Afghanistan Leadership School (SOLA), Afghanistan’s only boarding school for girls.
There were cheers and lavish praise for Rwanda and Uganda. Today, Rwanda is home to almost 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Uganda, on the other hand, is home to 1.5 million refugees, making it the country with the most refugees in Africa.
All hell broke loose in April of this year. The UK announced it had a plan to send illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they would either stay or move on to other countries.
Boris Johnson’s government insists the program aims to do that , dismantling people smuggling networks and deterring migrants from making the dangerous sea voyage from France across the English Channel to England.
Critics have become furious, calling the plan immoral and racist, with several arguing it is risky , because several of the human rights found in liberal democracies are absent in Rwanda. This new resettlement ‘democracy test’ has opened a thorny window into the protection deal.
The UK asylum affair has meanwhile made headlines over Commonwealth (Chogm) leaders. Meeting held in Kigali.
The high emotions sparked by the UK-Rwanda asylum plan is an indication of how complicated immigration and refugee has become. There are several contradictory things that are both true at the same time.
If Donald Trump’s 2016 US election victory and his tumultuous, racially motivated tenure tell us anything, it is the western world’s “peak” of the Migration accomplished.
Uncomfortable to confront, but probably no longer sustainable, especially for people from the South to continue migrating to the West in large numbers and fleeing. Domestically, fear of people of color “replacing” white communities is reaching a boiling point, fueling far-right politics.
We have to admit it. The demographic composition of the West is changing, and by the end of this century whites will be minorities in almost all major European countries. Not too many people will accept their disappearance with great force.
For the western left and progressives, they see the future of their game in politics in migration and the diverse nations that make it possible. For businesses, migrants provide a new pool of cheap labor and secure their profits in a world where China eats their lunch. Things like the British-Rwandan plan have long-term political and economic ramifications.
But that doesn’t explain why the resettlements of migrants from Libya and Afghanistan in Africa have not been attacked. The difference may be because the crises in Libya and Afghanistan are in part the result of Western interventions – NATO and the US – gone horribly wrong. The repatriations are a much-needed clean-up of the mess – and there is some consensus on this across the western left and right.
Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer and curator of The Wall of the Great Africans . [emailprotected]