I visited Rwanda’s £20m ‘migrant hotel’ where UK asylum seekers will stay – it’s got Premier League on TV & footie pitch

<div>I visited Rwanda’s £20m ‘migrant hotel’ where UK asylum seekers will stay – it’s got Premier League on TV & footie pitch</div>
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SOCCER-MAD asylum seekers will be able to watch the Euros on wide-screen televisions in luxury hotel-style accommodation in Rwanda spruced up with £20m of UK taxpayers’ money.

The first migrants deported under the Government’s controversial policy are set to arrive in Africa in early July – just in time for the latter stages of the tournament.

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The Sun’s Robin Perrie visited Rwanda’s £20m ‘migrant hotel’[/caption]

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The luxury hotel-style accommodation in Kigali, Rwanda[/caption]

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Bedrooms inside the hotel can include two beds, wardrobe and a desk[/caption]

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Those staying can also enjoy a quick game of football at the 5-a-side pitch[/caption]

They will be put up in Hope Hostel, an imposing four-storey building set in two-and-half acres of lush grounds.

And after checking in they can head to the canteen or an air-conditioned marquee where the Euros will be shown.

They can then show off their own skills on a top-of-the range 5-a-side pitch that would not look out of place at a Premiership club’s training ground.

Staff proudly showed off the impressive facilities to The Sun yesterday as they declared: “We are more ready for the asylum seekers than you can imagine.”

We were the first UK media organisation invited into Hope Hostel since immigration staff last week began rounding up failed asylum seekers in raids across Britain.

They will be the first residents at the hostel even though it has been ready for nearly two years.

Parliamentary deadlock and legal challenges to PM Rishi Sunak’s plan to smash the people trafficking gangs mean no-one has stayed a single night there.

But the 42 staff – including 11 security guards – still turn up to work each day to keep it spick and span in readiness for the first arrivals, expected in around ten weeks.

Ismael Bakina, managing director of the private company which runs the hostel, said: “When they arrive they will be surprised at the quality of the services that we provide.”

He’s not wrong – Hope Hostel feels like a top range African hotel which promises far superior accommodation than anything the asylum seekers are likely to have experienced before.


The 5-a-side court, with its lovingly tended grass pitch, is floodlit so they will be able to play day and night.

It even has its own mini grandstand – a five-tiered open air affair – where others can watch the action.

Next to the pitch is a combined basketball court and volleyball pitch.

As the Euros head towards the final in Berlin on July 14, the biggest crowds at Hope Hostel will gather in the air-conditioned marquee.

It will be used as a processing centre for the asylum seekers but is also a leisure area complete with a red-clothed pool table.

And there are dozens of white plastic chairs in rows in front of two large, wide-screen televisions for footie fans to watch the Euros.

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A staff member confirmed: “We will be showing the Euros and we expect people will be keen to watch the matches.”

Others will be able to take in games while eating at the canteen where two more screens have been erected.

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The communal marquee features a pool table[/caption]

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Residents will also have hot food freshly prepared at the canteen or cook their own meals in an outside kitchen[/caption]

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There is also a basketball court with colourful bleachers[/caption]

The staff are proud of their ability to beam in programs from all over the world so asylum seekers can watch TV and films from their own countries.

But football is likely to be the biggest draw and to show us the range of games they can access, staff pulled up the highlights of Manchester City’s 5-1 drubbing of Wolves at the weekend.

Residents will get three meals a day at the halal canteen, which won’t cost them a penny, but they can also cook their own food on two gas burners at an outdoor kitchen area.

The accommodation block is built around a stunning atrium which stretches the full height of the four-storey building.

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Residents will have access to these communal toilets[/caption]

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The first residents are expected to arrive in a matter of weeks[/caption]

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A communal laundry area[/caption]

Natural light streams down to a courtyard below and each floor is adorned with lovingly cared for – and dusted and cleaned – tropical plants.

When asked if they were real or plastic, Mr Bakina insisted: “They are real, check for yourself.”

The 50 twin rooms go off internal corridors and offer hotel-style facilities for the 100 residents including fluffy white towels and miniature toiletries such as shampoo and body lotion.

The rooms, many of which have balconies, have breath-taking views across Kigali’s rolling landscape, the capital of a country known as “the land of a thousand hills” thanks to its stunning countryside.

There are two computer areas each with four PCs so the migrants can contact their families on email or Skype thanks to the superfast wi-fi.

Each room has a Koran and prayer mat and there are two red-carpeted prayer rooms on the third and fourth floors which are blessed with more stunning views across the city.

At the hostel entrance is a sign which reads: “Come as a guest, leave as a friend,” and staff can’t stress enough that this is not a secure facility.

Mr Bakina said: “When they are here they are free to roam the grounds and can come and go as they wish.

“They can use public transport and go to the shops or the supermarket to buy their own food to cook at the outside kitchen. This is not a prison or a detention centre.”

Back at the sports area, reached through perfectly manicured grounds that have the feel of a five-star country hotel, the cleaning staff were hard at work.

Three of the 11-strong team were washing down the mini grandstand even though no-one has sat there in two years.

And a gardener was carefully tending one of the immaculate box hedges to ensure it remained spirit-level straight, while two others followed behind sweeping up every tiny clipping.

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The lawns are kept lush and green in a country where average monthly high temperatures never dip below 25C by an underground water sprinkler system.

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Staff are prepping the grounds at full steam ahead of the first arrivals[/caption]

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A widescreen will show the Euros this summer[/caption]

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There is also a first aid area in case of emergencies[/caption]

Mr Bakina denied the staff were frustrated after turning up diligently for work for the last 680 days without having anyone to look after.

He said: “There is no frustration. The staff are hardworking and are happy to keep everything perfect for when the first people arrive.

“We don’t know when that will be. The asylum seeker who came to Rwanda under the voluntary scheme last week did not come here, we only take block bookings of people under the main UK policy.

“People ask if we got the call for asylum seekers to arrive tomorrow, would we be ready? We are not just ready for tomorrow, we are ready for today.

“But we don’t know when the first will come – we are in hospitality, not politics. We cannot answer questions about the politics of this issue.”

If Mr Bakina doesn’t have anything to say about the politics, plenty of others do.

Critics say Hope Hostel is an expensive white elephant and the policy itself an extravagant election stunt, with Labour pledging to scrap it if they win the next election.

But the Government insists it is the best deterrent to the small boats crisis.

Around 75,000 people crossed the English Channel in 2022 and 2023 and numbers are up by 25 per cent this year compared to last.

James Cleverly last week said on The Sun’s online politics show Never Mind the Ballots: “The people smugglers rely on the naivety and goodwill of people not trying to stop them.

“I’m going to try and stop them. We are not going to relent until we have stopped them, because otherwise people die and I’m not willing to accept that.”

And a Home Office spokesperson told The Sun yesterday: “The first illegal migrants set to be removed to Rwanda have now been detained by highly trained teams, following a series of nationwide operations.

“We will get flights off the ground to Rwanda in the next nine to eleven weeks, creating the deterrent effect to help break up the people smuggling business model and stop the boats.”

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The accommodation has its own Covid testing station[/caption]

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The hotel is surrounded by acres of lush grounds adorned with palm trees[/caption]

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A welcome sign at the Hope Hostel in Rwanda[/caption]

Back at Hope Hostel, as Mr Bakina makes clear, the staff don’t involve themselves in politics.

They just keep busy every day making sure the accommodation in the city’s upmarket Kagugu district is ready for whenever the first migrants land.

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Guards are posted at the currently-locked front gates and also at the airport-style security installed to ensure everyone is safe.

Another member of staff sits behind the reception desk, even though there is no-one to receive yet.

Above his head two clocks show the time in Paris and London.

All of the signs are in English and Arabic including on the various suggestion boxes installed so migrants can make requests on how to improve life at the hostel.

So far, £270million has been paid by the UK to Kigali as part of the deal, designed to help Rwanda develop its economy, with millions more promised depending on how many are relocated.

An extra £20million was handed over to meet processing and operational costs, such as the development of Hope House.

Yet, despite the eye-watering sums involved, it remains a The Shining-style ghost hotel.

Offices are clear of any paperwork, restaurant-quality ovens in the kitchen are silent and the bedrooms are empty of any personal possessions.

But what best illustrates just how long the debate over the Rwanda policy has been rumbling on lies in the marquee.

The pandemic feels a lifetime ago now, but Hope Hostel was first kitted out so long ago it has its own Covid testing station.

What is the Rwanda asylum plan?

The Rwanda asylum plan was unveiled in April 2022, and calls for sending certain asylum seekers who enter the UK illegally back to Rwanda.

There, their their claim will be evaluated and, should their application for refugee status be granted, they will stay.

As per the plan, refugees shall not be permitted to return to the UK after they have been deported to Rwanda, where they will be dealt with under that country’s judicial system.

Video of immigration enforcement police holding multiple migrants at various houses before they were taken away in handcuffs and placed in secure cars was made public by the Home Office on May 1.

The action was taken in response to official records indicating that 3,557 out of 5,700 asylum seekers in the initial batch of migrants designated for repatriation to Rwanda have lost contact.

A government source denied they were missing, and insisted the Home Office could contact everyone under consideration.

It is understood that the UK has returned a first unsuccessful asylum applicant to Rwanda as part of a voluntary removals programme.

Up to £3,000 is granted to migrants whose claims are denied so they can relocate there.

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A computer room is also available for residents to use[/caption]

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Anyone with suggestions on how to improve the accommodation can leave a note in this box[/caption]

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