UK Minister Endorses Rwanda as Safe for LGBTQ+ Migrants Amid Criticism

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Rwanda LGBTQ+ migrant safety controversy

Minister Praises Rwanda’s LGBTQ+ Rights Record Amid Controversy

UK Minister for Illegal Migration, Michael Tomlinson, has lauded Rwanda as a “progressive” destination where LGBTQ+ migrants would be secure. This statement was made following the approval of a contentious bill by the UK government, which aims to transfer asylum seekers to the East African nation. Despite acknowledging potential discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in Rwanda, Tomlinson characterized the nation as “very progressive.”

When questioned on the safety of queer migrants relocating to Rwanda, Tomlinson affirmed, “Yes they can, because it’s set out within the constitution.” He further clarified, “It is not unlawful to be gay in Rwanda and discrimination on any grounds is unlawful in Rwanda.” He also remarked on the initial debates in Parliament, stating they were condescending towards Rwanda, describing them as “very patronising and almost supercilious.”

Concerns from LGBTQ+ Advocates and Evidence of Discrimination

Contrasting with the minister’s views, data from Equaldex reveals that while homosexuality is not criminalized in Rwanda, the protections against discrimination are weak, and laws against same-sex marriage and adoption persist. The country scores 27 out of 100 in LGBTQ+ equality. Human Rights Watch reported that despite the legality of homosexuality, stigma prevails, and the Rwandan government has reportedly denied asylum based on sexual orientation persecution.

A Rwandan refugee in the UK disclosed to PinkNews in 2022 that LGBTQ+ individuals continue to face bullying and rejection due to their sexual orientation. He commented, “There’s a lot of evidence that sexual orientation and gender identity is still taboo and the government doesn’t want to do anything about that.”

See also  Europe's Safest Destinations for LGBTQ+ Travelers

Read also : A Push for Trans and Intersex Rights in Rwanda


Organizations Decry UK’s Rwanda Asylum Policy

Rainbow Migration expressed devastation over the Rwanda bill’s passage, highlighting the “discrimination, violence and abuse” faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in Rwanda. The organization emphasized the extensive evidence of mistreatment and called the situation dire enough to drive individuals to seek asylum in the UK based on their sexual orientation.

Leila Zadeh, Executive Director at Rainbow Migration, criticized the government’s disregard for factual evidence, stating, “It is dystopian that this government has passed a law that ignores facts and declares contrary to evidence that Rwanda is a safe country.” She lamented the government’s approach to refugees who have endured severe hardships.

Sebastian Rocca, founder and CEO of Micro Rainbow, also voiced concerns, particularly about two lesbians who had to flee Rwanda for their safety. He argued that processing LGBTQ+ asylum claims in Rwanda is not only unthinkable but potentially fatal. Rocca called on the British government to establish safe and humane immigration procedures, concluding, “It’s time the Government committed to create safe routes and a humane and dignified immigration system that we can all be proud of. The UK should be a place of sanctuary for LGBTQI refugees, somewhere they can live and love openly, and rebuild their lives.”

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