LGBT+ Rwandans face bogus arrests, violent abuse and rape in terrifying detention centre

A Home Office minister attempted to defend Rwanda’s LGBT+ and human rights record amid backlash to Boris Johnson’s plan to give asylum seekers a one-way ticket to the African nation.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday (14 April) plans for the UK to ‘offshore’ many asylum seekers to processing centres in Rwanda.

Tom Pursglove, junior minister for justice and tackling illegal migration, was confronted with the Foreign Office’s own travel advice for LGBT+ people going to Rwanda by Sky News on Friday (15 April).

The department warns that while there is no law forbidding same-sex relations, homosexuality is “frowned on by many” in Rwanda and LGBT+ people experience “discrimination and abuse”.

“That is the advice given to gay people in this country from the Foreign Office, just round the corner from you,” said host Niall Paterson.

Pursglove stumbled over his words: “We have this, I have to say, some appalling stereotypes thrown around in the last 24 hours since this announcement.

“The fact is Rwanda has made huge strides forward over the last three decades. It has a female-majority parliament, it has an anti-discrimination law that runs right through its constitution.”

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Pursglove was again confronted with a 2021 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the practice of “round-ups” by Rwandan officials.

The non-profit spoke to nine LGBT+ people as well as sex workers, homeless children and others who were detained by officials to “clear up” the streets ahead of a high-profile Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Detainees were held in overcrowded rooms without adequate food, water and healthcare and beaten by guards at a transit centre in Kigali.

Gay and trans detainees told HRW they were accused of “not representing Rwandan values”.

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