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Rwanda hotel invites UK migrants to ‘come as a guest, leave as a friend’

The garden and grounds of the Hope Hostel in Kigali, Rwanda, where migrants will stay after arriving from the UK on a deportation flight (Victoria Jones/PA)
The garden and grounds of the Hope Hostel in Kigali, Rwanda, where migrants will stay after arriving from the UK on a deportation flight (Victoria Jones/PA)

Migrants can tuck into a full English breakfast, shoot hoops on a newly built basketball court and buy treats in a gift shop when they arrive in Rwanda from the UK.

During their stay at Hope Hostel in Kigali, those removed on deportation flights from Britain will also be given sliders slip-on shoes and and a limitless supply of free toiletries.

Bosses at the hotel-style accommodation, which overlooks the rolling green hills just beyond the east African nation’s capital city, said they want the people arriving to feel “at home”.

The reception area at the Hope Hostel in Kigali, Rwanda
The reception area at the Hope Hostel in Kigali, Rwanda (Victoria Jones/PA)

Hope’s slogan, emblazoned on a banner adorning the entrance, invites migrants to “come as a guest, leave as a friend”.

On arrival, they will be tested for Covid-19 in a purpose-built processing tent which also acts as a games room, with a pool table and plans for darts and table tennis.

A play area will be created if and when children arrive, while staff are hard at work building a basketball court where football and badminton can also be played.

A security guard opens the entrance gate next to a sign reading ‘Come as a guest, leave as friend’
A security guard opens the entrance gate next to a sign reading ‘Come as a guest, leave as friend’ (Victoria Jones/PA)

During the course of their stay, they will receive a monthly allowance of 100,000RWF (roughly £90), and be given an information sheet detailing their entitlements and services available before being interviewed in the tile-floored marquee as their asylum claims are determined and immigration status established.

The bedrooms – with views of the surrounding city and countryside – are equipped with comfy duvets and pillows on two double beds as mosquito nets hang above.

Towels, shower gel and shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste as well as prayer mats are all provided.

Bedroom accommodation
Bedroom accommodation (Victoria Jones/PA)

Hope sleeps 100 people over four floors, typically with two people per room, around 12 of which are on each floor.

Some open on to a small patio and garden courtyard area.

There are 12 showers and toilets – six of each – in communal bathrooms on each floor as well as two prayer rooms so men and women can worship separately, computers, water coolers offering hot and cold water and laundry facilities.

A pair of slider shoes supplied to all new arrivals
A pair of slider shoes supplied to all new arrivals (Victoria Jones/PA)

Men and women will be separated on different floors and those testing positive for coronavirus will be isolated.

Guards are on hand to deal with any troublemakers and anyone found to be aggressive or causing distress to other migrants could be separated and offered support services like counselling and medical attention, government officials and hotel staff said.

Three meals a day are offered in the bright and airy dining room as a big screen television plays music and news channels.

Construction workers shovel earth on the site of a basketball court that will be built next to the Hope Hostel
Construction workers shovel earth on the site of a basketball court that will be built next to the Hope Hostel (Victoria Jones/PA)

Menus are tailored to suit the individual dietary requirements of the migrants.

Options for breakfast include a cooked full English, omelettes and fruit, while curries, other local cuisine as well as Middle Eastern and Asian food, are provided at lunch and dinner.

Residents will also have the option to cook their own food while dishes native to them will occasionally laid on by the kitchen, which offers snacks 24 hours a day for anyone feeling peckish between mealtimes.

Cigarettes for sale in the gift shop
Cigarettes for sale in the gift shop (Victoria Jones/PA)

Overall, staff estimate the food, accommodation and supplies on the site cost 60,000 Rwandan Francs (RWF) – roughly £48 – per person, per day to provide.

Of that, the food costs around 15,000RWF (around £12) per person, per day.

In the gift shop, cigarettes are for sale for 3,000 RWF (£2.50) as well as T-shirts (5,000 RWF or £4), matches, socks, and boxer shorts.

CCTV cameras in a corridor outside bedroom accommodation
CCTV cameras in a corridor outside bedroom accommodation (Victoria Jones/PA)

Shop keeper Sandrine Mushimiyimana, 23, said more stock is due to arrive, including sweets, chocolate, postcards, deodorant and other toiletries, with migrants able to request items to be ordered in.

Ms Mushimiyimana, who is from Kigali and used to be an IT technician, said she is enjoying her job and it pays well.

Asked why she wanted to work there, she added: “I think it’s good what they are doing here.”

A chef works in the kitchen
A chef works in the kitchen (Victoria Jones/PA)

The hotel, which is run by about 20 on-site staff and has its own security team, CCTV system, bag scanner and metal detectors, stands in immaculately kept grounds with cleaners and gardeners employed by private companies to keep it pristine.

Plants are dotted around the communal areas, while locally made artwork and crafts hang on the walls.

Suggestion boxes are placed throughout the property allowing residents to give their feedback anonymously and anyone unhappy with the accommodation is encouraged to raise it with the management, who said they would be pleased to try to make changes to make their stay more comfortable.

The dining room
The dining room (Victoria Jones/PA)

Government spokeswoman Claire Gatayine told reporters during a visit on Thursday they only learned at about 11pm on Tuesday that the migrants would not be arriving as expected after some had made “complaints” about being taken to Rwanda.

The accommodation had already ordered in food and other provisions in anticipation of the arrival and stands ready to welcome migrants whenever the first flight takes place.

Asked whether it was upsetting to hear criticism about the facilities before anyone has arrived and from people who had never visited, the accommodation’s deputy managing director Phiona Uwera, said: “Yes. We want to give them good accommodation and a nice place to stay”, later adding: “We want to make them feel at home and have everything they could want. We hope they will be happy here.”

Cleaning facilities at the entrance to the dining room
Cleaning facilities at the entrance to the dining room (Victoria Jones/PA)