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20 January 2022 – Rwanda

A Refugee Receiving his COVID-19 Vaccination at the Gashora Emergency Transit Mechanism centre in Rwanda, (Plaisir Muzogeye,
A Refugee Receiving his COVID-19 Vaccination at the Gashora Emergency Transit Mechanism centre in Rwanda, (Plaisir Muzogeye, "First Refugees Receive COVID-19 Vaccinations in Rwanda," UNHCR, 12 March 2021,

The United Kingdom is reportedly considering sending asylum seekers to Rwanda as part of an offshore resettlement and processing scheme that would be allowed under the UK government’s proposed new Nationality and Borders Bill. Ghana was also named as a possible destination, although Ghana’s foreign minister quickly disavowed such a possibility, saying that the country had not “engaged with the UK on any such plan and does not intend to consider any such operation in the future.”

It would not be the first time that Rwanda played such a role. The country was previously involved in receiving deportees from Israel under a “voluntary departure” scheme between 2014 and 2017. Around 4,000 people were deported under that scheme to Rwanda and Uganda and almost all are thought to have left the country almost immediately, many attempting to return to Europe. Testimonies collected by the International Refugee Rights Initiative found that following their arrival in Rwanda from Israel, “people were being smuggled out of the country by land to Kampala within days.” Testimonies also highlighted that people were “not given an opportunity to apply for asylum, and even if they wish to stay in Rwanda, their refugee claims cannot be assessed as the national refugee status determination committee has not yet been established.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Rwanda has registered 125,568 COVID-19 cases and 1,411 related deaths. It is unclear whether the country ceased or restricted deportations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, on 14 April 2021, two Ugandan nationals were arrested and declared “prohibited immigrants” for staying irregularly in the country. Four days later, they were abandoned at the Katuna border post with a deportation note: “Take note that you are declared a prohibited immigrant in Rwanda within the meaning of Articles 12 and 15 of Law 57/2018 of 13/08/2018 on Immigration and Emigration in Rwanda.”

According to UNHCR data, there were 139,491 refugees and 465 asylum seekers in the country in 2020 and 122,806 refugees and 228 asylum seekers in mid-2021. Rwanda included refugees and asylum seekers in their priority list within the country’s national vaccination plan. In March 2021, the country began providing vaccinations to refugees and prison populations as these groups reside in crowded settings. The UNHCR, which has urged all countries to include forcibly displaced and stateless people in their national vaccination programmes, praised the Rwandan government’s efforts. Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR representative in Rwanda said: “Ensuring that refugees are included in the vaccine programme is key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Their inclusion in the national vaccination rollout is another mark of the Government of Rwanda’s generosity and humanitarian commitment towards the cause of refugees and asylum seekers.”