Rwanda

Not Available

Immigration detainees

2019

Not Available

Detained children

2017

204

New asylum applications

2020

139,491

Refugees

2020

13,000,000

Population

2020

Overview

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

22 April 2022

Outside of the Gashora Transit Centre (Sally Hayden,
Outside of the Gashora Transit Centre (Sally Hayden, "Rwandan Police Chief Accused of Sexual Assault of Child Refugee at UN Centre," The Guardian, 27 April 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/apr/27/rwandan-police-chief-accused-of-sexual-assault-of-child-refugee-at-un-centre)

Despite having a much-criticised track record concerning its treatment of refugees, Rwanda has signed deals with both the United Kingdom and Denmark that involve receiving deported asylum seekers and irregular migrants from both the countries for processing and potential permanent relocation.

In mid-April, Rwanda and the UK finalised an “economic development partnership” whose centrepiece is the UK proposal to send people attempting to enter the UK irregularly to Rwanda. The deportees would be allowed to remain in Rwanda or return to their home countries. According to the Guardian, it is expected that people removed will initially be taken to a hostel in Kigali for processing.

The highly controversial deal has been harshly criticised by UK church leaders, opposition politicians, and national and international refugee rights advocates. While the UK insists that Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world, it harshly criticised the country last year for its human rights record.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) harshly criticised the deal, saying that it “does not support the externalisation of asylum states’ obligations. This includes measures taken by states to transfer asylum seekers and refugees to other countries, with insufficient safeguards to protect their rights, or where this leads to the shifting rather than the sharing of responsibilities to protect refugees.”

The UK NGO Detention Action said that people sent to Rwanda could face “indefinite detention under a government notorious for violent persecution of dissent.” The organisation also highlighted that “the UK currently gives asylum to Rwandan refugees fleeing political persecution.” Human Rights Watch recalled that in 2018, Rwandan security forces shot dead at least 12 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo when they protested a cut to food rations. Authorities subsequently arrested and prosecuted more than 60 refugees on charges including rebellion and spreading false information with intent to create a hostile international opinion against the Rwandan state.

Previously, in June 2021, Denmark signed a memorandum of understanding on asylum and migration issues with Rwanda. The agreement seeks to strengthen Rwanda’s “Refugee Status Determination” capability and envisages the processing of asylum applications to take place outside of the EU.

Just weeks before the MoU was signed, UNHCR had urged Denmark to avoid externalising their asylum obligations as the practice “frustrates access to international protection, is inconsistent with global solidarity and responsibility sharing, regularly undermines the rights of asylum seekers and refugees and thus violates international obligations of States.”

The MoU mentions Rwanda’s ETM centre in Gashora, which has been sharply criticised for abuses suffered by refugees evacuated from Libya who have been housed there. In April 2020, a Rwandan police commander was accused of sexually assaulting a child refugee at the ETM centre. Rwanda’s police force accused the refugees of lying, saying they were unhappy with coronavirus-related restrictions and that the boy was drunk.

It is unclear whether the Danish government has sent anyone to Rwanda yet. According to Infomigrants, while the memorandum of understanding is not legally binding, signed in late April, it sets the framework for future negotiations and cooperation between both countries.

As of 2020, there were 139,491 refugees and 465 asylum seekers in Rwanda, mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. The government began vaccinating refugees against COVID-19 in March 2021, including more than 200 refugees residing in the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) Centre in Gashora.

Rwanda initially set up the ETM in mid-2019 for the purpose of housing refugees and migrants evacuated from Libya by UNHCR and the African Union. As of March 2021, there were 303 refugees and asylum seekers staying at the ETM centre. In November 2021, Rwanda, the African Union, and UNHCR signed an Addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding of the Emergency Transit Mechanism centre to continue evacuating third country nationals from Libya. The extension of the agreement ensured the continuation of the operation at the ETM centre until 31 December 2021 and expanded its capacity from 500 to 700 places.


20 January 2022

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, https://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2021/3/604b7a4f4/first-refugees-receive-covid-19-vaccinations-rwanda.html)

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.”


18 April 2020

A police officer stands at the deserted crossing point between Rwanda and the DRC amid concerns about the spread of Covid-19 (Reuters, https://www.voanews.com/covid-19-pandemic/refugees-protest-under-coronavirus-lockdown-rwanda)
A police officer stands at the deserted crossing point between Rwanda and the DRC amid concerns about the spread of Covid-19 (Reuters, https://www.voanews.com/covid-19-pandemic/refugees-protest-under-coronavirus-lockdown-rwanda)

Refugees and migrants, relocated to Rwanda from Libya and subsequently held in Gashora Emergency Transit Centre outside Kigali, have protested against their lockdown. Rwanda has accepted several hundred persons, evacuated from Libya’s notorious detention facilities. Some have been screened and approved for relocation to countries including Canada and Norway, but the lockdown has suspended their onward travel, leaving them stuck in the transit centre indefinitely. UNHCR reportedly issued a statement urging calm and emphasised that Rwandan laws have ordered the various restrictions in place.


Last updated:

ENFORCEMENT DATA

Total Migration Detainees: Flow + Stock (year)
Not Available
2019
Total Number of Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
Not Available
2017
Criminal Prison Population (Year)
54,279
2015
55,618
2012
59,311
2008
82,000
2006
87,000
2004
112,000
2002
145,021
1998
Percentage of Foreign Prisoners (Year)
0.3
2002
Prison Population Rate (per 100,000 of National Population)
434
2015
492
2012
221
2008
167
2006
111
2004
102
2002
139
1998

POPULATION DATA

Population (Year)
13,000,000
2020
11,610,000
2015
International Migrants (Year)
539,937
2019
441,500
2015
International Migrants as Percentage of Population (Year)
3.8
2015
Refugees (Year)
139,491
2020
145,054
2019
170,990
2017
156,055
2016
144,737
2015
73,820
2014
Ratio of Refugees Per 1000 Inhabitants (Year)
13.13
2016
6.51
2014
New Asylum Applications (Year)
204
2020
379
2019
50
2016
43
2014
Refugee Recognition Rate (Year)
100
2014
Stateless Persons (Year)
0
2016
0
2016
0
2015

SOCIO-ECONOMIC DATA & POLLS

Gross Domestic Product per Capita (in USD)
695
2014
Remittances to the Country
179
2014
Unemployment Rate
2014
Net Official Development Assistance (ODA) (in Millions USD)
1,034
2014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
163 (Low)
2015

B. Attitudes and Perceptions

MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

LEGAL & REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

GROUNDS FOR MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

LENGTH OF MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION INSTITUTIONS

PROCEDURAL STANDARDS & SAFEGUARDS

DETENTION MONITORS

TRANSPARENCY

READMISSION/RETURN/EXTRADITION AGREEMENTS

COVID-19

HEALTH CARE

COVID-19 DATA

Has the country released immigration detainees as a result of the pandemic?
Unknown
2021

Has the country used legal "alternatives to detention" as part of pandemic detention releases?
Unknown
2021

Has the country Temporarily Ceased or Restricted Issuing Detention Orders?
Unknown
2021

Has the Country Adopted These Pandemic-Related Measures for People in Immigration Detention?
COVID-19 Testing: UnknownVaccinations: UnknownProvision of Masks: UnknownProvision of Hygiene Supplies: UnknownSuspension of Visits: Unknown
2021

Has the Country Locked-Down Previously "Open" Reception Facilities, Shelters, Refugee Camps, or Other Forms of Accommodation for Migrant Workers or Other Non-Citizens?
Yes
2020

Have cases of COVID-19 been reported in immigration detention facilities or any other places used for immigration detention purposes?
Unknown
2021

Has the Country Ceased or Restricted Deportations/Removals During any Period After the Onset of the Pandemic?
Unknown
2021

Has the Country Released People from Criminal Prisons During the Pandemic?
Yes
2020

Have Officials Blamed Migrants, Asylum Seekers, or Refugees for the Spread of COVID-19?
Yes
2021

Has the Country Restricted Access to Asylum Procedures?
Unknown
2021

Has the Country Commenced a National Vaccination Campaign?
Yes
2021

Have Populations of Concern Been Included/Excluded From the National Vaccination Campaign?
People in Immigration Custody (including legal in "alternatives to detention" or at open reception centres): UnknownRefugees: IncludedUndocumented Migrants: UnknownAsylum Seekers: IncludedStateless People: Unknown
2021

INTERNATIONAL TREATIES

International Treaties Ratified
Ratification Year
Observation Date
VCCR, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
1974
2017
ICERD, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
1975
2017
ICESCR, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
1975
2017
ICCPR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1975
2017
CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
1981
2017
CRC, Convention on the Rights of the Child
1991
2017
CAT, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
2008
2017
ICRMW, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
2008
2017
CRPD, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
2008
2017
CRSR, Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
1980
2017
CRSSP, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons
2006
2017
CTOCTP, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
2003
2017
CTOCSP, Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
2006
2017
OPCAT, Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
2015
2015
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
Ratio: 14/19
Individual Complaints Procedures
Acceptance Year
CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 1999 2008
2008
CRPD, Optional Protocol to o the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2008
2008
Ratio of Complaints Procedures Accepted
Observation Date
2/8
2017
Relevant Recommendations Issued by Treaty Bodies
Recommendation Year
Observation Date
Committee on Migrant Workers "§24. (a) ensure that detention of migrants for violations of immigration law is used only as a measure of last resort and in s pecial facilities; and that, inso far as practicable, migrants detained for immigration offences are held separately from ordinary prisoners; and (b) include in its next periodic report detailed information on the number of migrants detained for immigration offences and on the place, average duration and conditions of their detention." 2012
2012
Committee on Migrant Workers 27. The Committee notes that Law No. 57/2018 repealed Law No. 04/2011. It also notes the assurances of the State party that detention of migrants for violations of immigration law is used only as a measure of last resort in special facilities, and that the National Commission for Human Rights monitors and may make unannounced visits to places of detention where migrant workers may be held. However, the Committee is concerned about: (...) (c) The lack of statistical data on cases involving the placement of migrant workers and members of their families in administrative custody for reasons related to irregular migration; (...) 28. The Committee recommends that the State party: (...) (c) Include, in its next periodic report, detailed information, disaggregated by age, sex, nationality or origin or both, on the number of migrant workers currently held in administrative detention for immigration offences and on the place, average duration and conditions of their detention; (...) 2021
2021
Committee on the Rights of the Child § 41. The State party: (a) Ensure that all reception centres for asylum-seeking and refugee children are child-friendly and that all unaccompanied and separated children have prompt access to national refugee status determination procedures; (b) Investigate any reports of alleged disappearance of children, in particular adolescent girls, from refugee camps, establish their whereabouts and prosecute those responsible for crimes involved in such disappearance ; (c) Continue to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to address the aforementioned issues. 2020
2020
Human Rights Committee § 30. […]The State party should ensure that detention pending deportation is only applied if reasonably necessary and proportionate, after due consideration of less invasive means and for the shortest possible period of time, and that individuals detained for immigration-related reasons are held in facilities specifically designed for that purpose. 2016
2016

NON-TREATY-BASED INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

Relevant Recommendations from the UN Universal Periodic Review
Observation Date
No 2011
2017
No 2015
2017

REGIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

Regional Legal Instruments
Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
Observation Date
ACHPR, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights 1983
1983
2017
ACRWC, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 2001
2001
2017
APRW, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) 2004
2004
2017

GOVERNANCE SYSTEM

Legal Tradition(s)
Civil law
2017
Customary law
2017

DETENTION COSTS

OUTSOURCING

FOREIGN SOURCES OF FUNDING FOR DETENTION OPERATIONS