Support our Nation today - please donate here

‘I come from Wales, and I come from Rwanda’ teen faces judgement over Rwanda Bill

18 Mar 2024 8 minute read
Credit S4C Y Byd ar Bedwar Bowen Cole (left) and Siôn Jenkins, presenter of Y Byd ar Bedwar (right) in Rwanda

In a special episode of the Welsh language current affairs programme, Y Byd ar Bedwar, the team travels to Rwanda, the country at the heart of the UK Government’s controversial migration policy.

The UK Government’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has been making headlines for the past two years, and one who feels that Rwanda has been judged unfairly is Bowen Cole, 17, from Swansea.

In the programme, Bowen who is half Welsh and half Rwandan travels to Rwanda, a country he calls his “second home” with presenter Siôn Jenkins.

Speaking on the programme, Bowen says that Rwanda has faced “stigma” and “judgement”.

“I can see there’s a stigma with Rwanda now, and it makes me so frustrated because this is such a good, peaceful country,”

“If [asylum seekers] are sent to Rwanda, nothing is going to happen [to them], nothing bad is going to happen. They are going to be treated like people.”

“I believe there are quite a few similarities between Rwanda and Wales, for example the majority of people undermine Wales and Rwanda, they think they know these countries, but they don’t.”

Siôn Jenkins, presenter of S4C’s Y Byd ar Bedwar (right) and Bowen Cole (left) Credit: Y Byd ar Bedwar


Since the plans have been announced, Bowen tells Siôn that he has faced judgement for his heritage.

“When I say I’m from Rwanda, people start to question me.”

“I never thought I’d live to see the day that I’m judged for coming from Rwanda.”

Under the agreement, designed to deter people from arriving in the UK on small boats, some asylum seekers would be sent to Rwanda, to have their claims processed there.

If their claims are successful, they will be granted refugee status and allowed to stay in Rwanda.

If their claims are unsuccessful, they could apply to settle in Rwanda on other grounds, or seek asylum in another “safe third country”.

No asylum seeker would be allowed to return to the UK.

When questioned about his thoughts on the policy, Bowen shares that he has mixed feelings.

“I come from Wales, and I come from Rwanda… if I say I’m against the policy, people will think I hate Rwanda, but, God forbid, I don’t!”

“[But] I’m against the policy, because if the [migrants] want to go to the UK, let them go to the UK.”

“How would you feel if you ran away from your war torn country, to a country you thought would be safe, just to be turned away?”

But during their time in Rwanda, Bowen said that if the plan goes ahead, those sent to the country have nothing to fear.

“If anyone knows how to take care of migrants, knows what they want, and treats them like people – it’s Rwanda.”

Concerns have been raised regarding Rwanda’s ability to accept more refugees.

As of the end of September 2023, Rwanda hosted 135,733 refugees, asylum seekers, and other displaced populations. A third of those come from Burundi, a country which shares its border with Rwanda.

In his journey around Rwanda, Siôn also meets a refugee who arrived in the country from Burundi in 2015, but has struggled to find work.


“It’s hard to find a job, I’ve been trying for years. Many people want you to work for free, and they say they’ll pay you later, but it’s impossible. Finding a job is difficult.”

“I get some part time jobs… it provides me with some small income to help me survive.”

In an interview with S4C’s Y Byd ar Bedwar he also said it took him 2 years to receive refugee status in the country, a process the Rwandan Government says should only take 2 months.

“When you arrive in Rwanda, you are given accommodation such as a tent you can live in… and then they investigate you to ensure you are a real refugee.”

“It took about 2 years for the whole process to be completed, and for me to be registered as an official refugee.”

“It wasn’t easy, it was a difficult period. I cried a lot… I still think about the situation and I feel sad, but I have to accept it.”

The asylum seekers that come to Rwanda from the UK will have a roof over their heads at Hope Hostel, a hotel in the north of Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.

There’s room for around 100 people there, and the Rwandan government says they will stay there for roughly 3 months before moving to more permanent accommodation.

In the programme, Siôn also speaks to Lilly Carlisle who works for The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Rwanda. She’s been supporting refugees in the country for 2 years.

“It’s a protracted crisis, the refugees have been here for 10 years plus. Finding a job is tough. Around 80-90% of refugees here are completely dependent on humanitarian assistance,” she told Y Byd ar Bedwar.

Lilly Carlisle Credit: Y Byd ar Bedwar


Lilly believes sending more asylum seekers to Rwanda would pose serious risks for the safety of refugees.

“This is shifting the burden, essentially, from the UK to Rwanda. We think the UK should take responsibility for these asylum seekers in assessing their claims rather than shifting the responsibility to a country like Rwanda who already has a lot to deal with with the existing refugee population.

“You will have, essentially, two different systems dealing with asylum seekers and refugees in the same country. Right now, we do not consider the asylum system safe to bring more people here.”

The UK government’s plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda has faced many legal challenges.

The UK Supreme Court ruled unanimously in November that the Rwanda scheme was unlawful.

It said genuine refugees sent there would be at risk of being returned to their home countries, where they could face harm.

Dr. Doris Uwicyeza Picard, Chief Technical Advisor for the Rwanda Ministry of Justice says on the programme that there is “no such risk for any asylum seekers, not just those relocated from the UK”.

Dr. Picard was a part of the team responsible for discussing the terms of the agreement with the UK Government, and she played a key role in drafting the legal framework for the plan.

“We have scaled up [processes] because now we expect an increase in asylum applications, we’ve scaled up capacity, we are reforming our entire asylum process.

“We understand that there [were] concerns that were expressed by the Supreme Court and those have been addressed.”

Dr. Doris Uwicyeza Picard Credit: Y Byd ar Bedwar


When questioned by the presenter about the lack of jobs in the country, Dr. Picard says “unemployment is an issue everywhere and this is why we believe that migration is wealth that is being brought into the country because we’re bringing in wealth of experience and education and skills.”

“The more people there are, the more jobs there are. There are not just job openings waiting for people to fill them, a job is created by the people.”

Siôn goes on to challenge Dr. Picard on the length of time it takes for asylum seekers to receive refugee status, she replies: “It usually takes on average 2 months to get your residence, to get the refugee status.”

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in November that the Rwanda scheme was unlawful, the government introduced a new bill to make clear in UK law that Rwanda is a safe country.

The legislation must be approved by both Houses of Parliament, however the Lords defeated it at the start of the month.

Opponents of the plan are concerned that it places the UK at risk of breaching international law commitments, undermines the jurisdiction of the courts, will lead to substantial taxpayer costs, fails to provide safe and legal routes for refugees and does not include measures to tackle people smugglers.

Today the bill will return to the House of Commons where changes made by the Lords are likely to be overturned.

A Home Office spokesperson told Y Byd ar Bedwar: “As the Home Secretary and Prime Minister have said, we remain committed to getting flights to Rwanda off the ground once the Bill and Treaty are in place.

“We have a strong relationship with the Rwandans and will continue to work closely with them to operationalise the policy.”

Watch Y Byd ar Bedwar at 20.00 Monday evening on S4C, S4C Clic and BBC iPlayer with English subtitles.

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.