The British home secretary has dismissed criticism of the central African country’s human rights record British Home Secretary Suella Braverman (C) attends a Commonwealth event in Kigali, Rwanda on March 19, 2023. © Cyril Ndegeya / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

British Home Office Secretary Suella Braverman has insisted that Rwanda is a safe place for the refugees who would be sent there under the UK’s controversial $170 million (£140 million) migrant deportation program.

Braverman made the statement during a working visit to Rwanda this week, reaffirming the UK’s “commitment to the ground-breaking partnership,” which she described as “a powerful deterrent against dangerous and illegal journey.”

She toured a modern housing estate being built in Rwanda’s capital Kigali for refugees and migrants deported from the UK, and also expanded the deportation deal to include all migrants who illegally enter British soil after passing through ‘safe’ countries.

Although the agreement between the two nations, which are approximately 6,500km apart, has been in place since last year, no one has been sent to the Central African nation yet due to legal difficulties.

The UK sought such an agreement in order to stem the flow of migrants and refugees arriving in the country in small boats.

Rwandan officials have stated that they will integrate any immigrants and refugees who arrive from the UK, although the timeline for this is uncertain.

“Mixing Rwandans and migrants is a good thing because it will help Rwandans to live in places that are, I would say, modern. But on the other hand, it will also allow migrants to be easily integrated into the Rwandan community,” Alain Mukuralinda, deputy spokesman for the Rwandan government, told reporters.

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Despite assurances, the controversial Illegal Migration Bill, which the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR calls an asylum ban, is facing stiff opposition not only from rights groups and political opponents, but also from within Braverman’s own party.

According to the Refugee Council, approximately 200,000 people may be imprisoned or forced into poverty as a result of the initiative, and nearly 45,000 children may have their asylum applications denied.

The US State Department has spoken out against the move, calling it unjust and an attempt to punish those who seek asylum in the UK.

According to the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor 2022 report on human rights practices in Rwanda, the central African nation is experiencing an increase in human rights issues, such as extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, imprisonment on political grounds, and restrictions on freedom of expression.

However, Braverman dismissed criticism of Rwanda’s human rights record, saying that permanent resettlement from the UK would be a “blessing.” She emphasized that those deported would have a “safe and secure life,” calling the approach “humane” and “compassionate.” (RT)