Well, will you look at this? Rwanda is a safe country after all, says EU, UNHCR, and African Union

Graham Charles Lear
8 min readOct 16, 2023

How can any British human rights lawyers and Rejoiners argue and Rejoiners it’s not

EU has been funding UNHCR illegal migrant flights to Rwanda for 4 years

The EU has agreed to continue financing UNHCR flights of illegal migrants to Rwanda. It has been quietly doing this since 2019 and this year it has extended its funding to 2026. It is therefore clear that the EU, the UNHCR, and the African Union consider Rwanda to be a safe country.

With the UK Supreme Court now considering its judgement in the legal battle by pro-migrant lawyers, the UNHCR, and the ECHR to prevent the UK Government from deporting illegal boat migrants to Rwanda, this information MUST be put into the public domain.

The BBC refuse to do it, they know about it but for years they have refused to report what the EU is doing.

Illegal migrants (known by the UNHCR as “refugees”) travel to Libya in order to get on boats taking them to Italy, from where many travel north to the French coast to catch another boat to England. Because conditions in Libya are not like the 4-star accommodation these illegal migrants receive in the UK, the EU is paying the UNHCR to put them on flights to Rwanda — which they consider to be a safe country. I present the first part of our evidence below.

The EU’s conspiracy of silence

The EU Commission has issued no recent press release or statement about this (that I can find). All my attempts to access the links on its EEAS (‘European External Action Service’’) website resulted in pages ‘hanging’. In the end, I was forced to go to the African Union website where the information was readily available. I also have a statement from 2019, from the then-EU Commissioner, which I publish below. From this report, you can see how duplicitous the EU is.

How the EU has funded the UNHCR transfer of migrants in Africa

  1. Over 5,000 migrants have been flown by the UN, using EU funds, to Rwanda and Niger

2. So far, over 1,500 have been sent to Rwanda

3. The United Kingdom hasn’t been able to send a single illegal migrant to Rwanda, thanks to the ECHR, the UN Conventions, and UK human rights legislation

4. The EU part-funded this using its ‘Emergency Trust Fund for Africa’

5. EU funding so far amounts to €77m (approx £67m)

6 The latest EU extension covers the period up until the end of 2026

[Sources: UNHCR, EU Commission, African Union.]

The ‘Emergency Transit Mechanism Centre’ in Rwanda, © UNHCR 2022 -

The EU’s funding of these flights

It is the EU that is funding this operation, at least in part, using money from its ‘Emergency Trust Fund for Africa’. This is an “off-the-books” EU fund which is not part of the officially-declared EU budget. The UK paid into this fund (c.£600m) when it was a member although this was never included by HM Treasury as part of the UK’s net contributions to the EU budget. (Many were not included)

In November 2019 on a visit to Rwanda, the EU’s then Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, announced a further €10.3 million grant for the UNHCR’s Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in the country, to provide accommodation for migrants.

According to a UNHCR report which I have seen, the EU’s total so far comes to €77 million.

This Rwanda initiative was built on the example of the earlier ETM grant for Niger, through which over 4,000 asylum seekers have been sent from Libya starting in 2017.

Here is the proof

Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner, in 2019

“This project will support efforts of the Government of Rwanda to receive and provide protection to about 1,500 refugees and asylum-seekers who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya. Such a remarkable and powerful proof of African solidarity should be further encouraged, replicated and supported.”

- Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Development and Cooperation, speaking on 19 November 2019

Rwanda is a safe country after all, says EU, UNHCR, and African Union

Now how can any British human rights lawyers or Rejoiners argue it’s not?

Here are the facts according to the African Union

“Due to the deteriorating security situation in and around the Libyan capital of Tripoli, on 10 September 2019, the African Union, the Government of the Republic of Rwanda and UNHCR signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set up an Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) for evacuating refugees and asylum seekers out of Libya.”

Photo right: © African Union Commission, Rwanda

“The group is principally made up of people originating from the Horn of Africa and includes children and youth at risk. After their arrival, UNHCR will continue to pursue solutions for the evacuees. While some may benefit from resettlement to third countries, others will be helped to return to countries where asylum had previously been granted, or to return to their home countries if it is safe to do so. Some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities.”

If you want even more proof here is what the UNHCR announced THIS YEAR

“The European Union has announced a €22 million support package to the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Rwanda operated by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the Government of Rwanda.

“The ETM provides a life-saving channel to evacuate refugees and asylum seekers in need of international protection from Libya to Rwanda. While these individuals temporarily remain in Rwanda, the ETM provides shelter as well as access to health, psychosocial support, and livelihood training for evacuees during the processing of their files and identification of future solutions, including onward resettlement to third countries.”

“The EU also funds another ETM in Niger, through which more than 4,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been evacuated out of Libya since 2017.”

Now here is the contradictory evidence from the UNHCR to British courts

The UNHCR states that it “advised” the High Court and continued to “advise” the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom on the Rwanda question.

“We are not a claimant in the proceedings but advised the court on matters of international refugee law and remain ready to provide any further advice as needed. UNHCR’s role in the litigation has, throughout the case, been in our capacity as the UN Refugee Agency with a mandate to supervise the application of the 1951 Refugee Convention worldwide.

“Our longstanding and well-known concerns about the “externalization” of asylum obligations remain. UNHCR considers that the UK-Rwanda arrangement contravenes the UK’s international obligations and fails to meet the required standards relating to the legality and appropriateness of transfers of asylum-seekers. We continue to urge the Government of the United Kingdom to instead pursue other measures, including cooperation with the UK’s European neighbours and fair and fast asylum procedures, that would be more humane, efficient, and cost-effective.”

- UNHCR press release, 19 December 2022

Now let's look at the words of the EU’s own Ambassador to Rwanda

Belén Calvo Uyarra has served as EU Ambassador to Rwanda since September 2022. She is committed to further deepening and expanding the already strong partnership between the EU and Rwanda. This year the Spaniard Ms Calvo Uyarra said:

“The Emergency Transit Mechanism in Rwanda is a crucial life-saving initiative to evacuate people facing major threats and inhumane conditions in Libya to safety in Rwanda.

Photo right: EU’s Ambassador in Rwanda this year, © EU Delegation Rwanda

And this is taken — from Belen Calvo Uyarra, Ambassador of the EU in Rwanda, a current official welcome message from her on the EU’s website, accessed Mon 16 Oct 2023.

The EU and Rwanda — “shared values of democracy, governance and human rights”

“The EU and Rwanda have a long-standing partnership at multilateral, regional and bilateral level. We cooperate to address today’s global challenges, from fighting COVID19 and climate change, to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as to promoting peace and a rules based multilateral order. The EU-AU Joint vision for 2030, guides our renewed partnership among equals to build a common future.

“Our partnership is based on shared values of democracy, governance and human rights; on joint interests and mutual respect; and on the ownership of Rwandans of the destiny of their country.”

- Belen Calvo Uyarra, Ambassador of the EU in Rwanda, current official welcome message from her on the EU’s website, accessed Mon 16 Oct 2023.

Now try and convince me after reading all this that Rwanda is not regarded as a safe country to send migrants by the EU and also the UN.

Try and convince me that the EU and the UN are against sending migrants to Rwanda.

The EU’s and UN’s hypocrisy and duplicity must be called out

To read the criticisms from the UNHCR and the EU of the UK Government’s plan to send illegal migrants to Rwanda for processing, one would expect to read condemnation from both bodies of the conditions in Rwanda. The UNHCR has even gone further and has been “advising” the UK’s Supreme Court in the current case, in order to prevent the UK Government’s Rwanda policy from taking off.

Instead, one finds the opposite. There is nothing but praise for this African country. Both organisations consider it to be a safe place to which to fly migrants — and have been doing so themselves for years.

Now also ask yourself one more question. Where are the BBC, the Guardian, Channel 4, the FT, and the New York Times on this? Why are they not reporting it?

Sources: UNHCR | African Union | EU Commission

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Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.