For more than two decades, Rwanda has been home to tens of thousands of Congolese refugees, offering them not only shelter, but also protection and a dignified life. Likewise, tens of thousands of Burundians have lived in Rwanda for more than half a decade.
Together, Rwanda is home to nearly 130,000 refugees from across the region.
The country also hosts migrants and asylum seekers rescued from Libya where they were stranded and exposed to all kinds of abuse as they attempted to make long perilous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life outside of Africa.
More recently, it has also hosted refugees from as far away as Afghanistan, while other nationalities from Asian countries, America, Europe and Africa have also settled and settled in Rwanda. Many have since established businesses here and actively contribute to the economy.
While the majority of foreign nationals may have come seeking safety, many are economic or business migrants who have found opportunities in Rwanda. This has been made possible in large part by Rwanda’s open border policy, which allows all nationals to obtain a visa upon arrival.
But even those who arrived in Rwanda as refugees fleeing violence have since been integrated into the community and have access to education, healthcare and financial services.
This friendly policy towards refugees and migrants is partly linked to the country’s history. Rwanda was one of the first African countries to produce refugees – as early as 1959, thanks to colonialist instigated pogroms – and at one point the majority of the adult population had practically been refugees at some point. Rwanda has also been at the forefront of humanitarian efforts around the world and is today the largest contributor of peacekeepers to the African continent.
It is also one of the countries that have strongly supported the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, which aims to ensure that the international community never again fails to put an end to the mass atrocities of genocide, war crimes , ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Naturally, again, this position of Rwanda is largely influenced by the indifference of the international community at a time when Rwandans needed help – during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
It is therefore not surprising that Rwanda is always ready to help find a solution to human suffering, wherever it may be. Indeed, Kigali’s decision to reach out to migrants and asylum seekers in the UK who cannot obtain residency there is entirely in line with this longstanding policy on migrants and the obligation morality to provide protection to anyone in need of security.
It is therefore shocking that this act of generosity has been harshly attacked by some people, including sections of the media. This, despite the fact that the status quo in the global migration system has failed to address the continued human suffering and loss of life.
The world needs more compassion and open migration policies.