A hostel that has been leased by the Rwandan government to house asylum seekers from the UK is making preparations to accept children.
The Hope hostel in Kigali is building outdoor facilities that will include football pitches, basketball courts and outdoor toys for any children who are flown to the east African country.
The manager, Elisee Kalyango, confirmed that he was improving facilities for children who could be among those brought from the UK to the 50-room, three-star hotel in the Kagugu district of the city.
Under plans announced by Boris Johnson, the UK will send “tens of thousands” of asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they will be expected to start a new life. The UK has made a £120m downpayment on the scheme.
Part of that money is to pay hotel owners for a year-long lease for their properties to be used just for UK asylum seekers.
The Hope hostel currently stands empty after an 11th-hour intervention by a European court stopped the inaugural deportation flight two weeks ago. Outside, builders were working on pitches for the use of adults and children.
Kalyango confirmed they were taking steps to prepare for the arrival of children under the policy, and said: “We are ready to handle people from any age.”
They were building a “mini football and basketball court, which can be shifted to volleyball” and he said toys could be placed on the lawn.
The Rwandan government has been keen to show off the Hope hostel to the media as modern and clean accommodation with facilities including a prayer room and a pool table.
However, it is the only facility that has so far been signed off for housing asylum seekers from the UK.
The Rwandan government said those who arrived would receive full-board accommodation, healthcare, and support for five years or until they were self-sufficient.
Enver Solomon, the head of the Refugee Council, said he was appalled to learn that asylum accommodation providers in Rwanda were preparing for children.
“This [UK] government is intent on treating any person – of any age or from any conflict – as human cargo in a plan that is cruel, and will cause great human suffering,” he said. “We are struck by the Home Office’s refusal to be transparent about its plans and the harm they will cause. Every day through our work we are witnessing the impact that uncertainty around the threat of removal to Rwanda is having on young people’s anxiety and mental health, with worrying reports of self-harm.”
At a press conference in Rwanda, Johnson praised the migrant scheme. “I’m confident that the migration aspect will work very well. I think it is notable that so far no UK court has found it to be unlawful and no international court has found it to be unlawful.
He added: “You’ve got to find a way of breaking the model of people smugglers. People smugglers, people traffickers, are doing a profoundly evil and dangerous thing and you have to find a way of stopping that. I’m confident that it will produce value for money.”
Johnson decided not to visit the facilities during his trip to Kigali this week. Asked why not, he said: “As you know they are not occupied by anybody yet. I am full-time flat out on the [Commonwealth] heads of government conference.”
Asked why the government had not ruled out sending children to Rwanda, the prime minister’s spokesperson said: “I think 90% of those coming across are men … We have taken significant steps, as have those running the site, to have everything they need here so they have an opportunity to be settled and live their lives.”