Yemeni couple enjoying new lease of life in Rwanda

The UK is planning to send some failed asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Flora Thompson
Thursday 14 April 2022 17:26
Burhan Almerdas (Flora Thompson/PA)
Burhan Almerdas (Flora Thompson/PA)

A Yemeni couple who left their home country amid civil war have told how they have been given a new lease of life in Rwanda.

Planning consultant Burhan Almerdas, 37, left the war-torn nation in 2014 along with his dentist wife Sanaa, 39, in search of a better life.

The pair tried living in Kenya, Jordan, Malaysia and Chad, but said they came up against difficulties in setting up a home and satisfying immigration requirements.

Eventually they settled on Rwanda, where they have been able to launch their business, the Mocha Cafe, in the capital city Kigali.

Burhan Almerdas, and his wife Sanaa (Flora Thompson/PA)

Mr Almerdas, who praised the welcoming nature of Rwandans and the ease with which they were able to pursue their business plan and seek out opportunities, is now employing several locals who he said are earning monthly wages of between 100-200 US dollars, depending on their skills and experience.

Speaking to reporters from his coffee shop on Thursday, he said of Rwanda: “They are welcoming, most of the places have been before they look at us like ‘you are from the war countries, we don’t trust you’ so you don’t always feel comfortable.

“But here I feel like if people are willing to work hard and do something, they respect that, they don’t look at your nationality, where you came from, they just look at what you want to do actually.”

Asked his thoughts on the UK government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda to rebuild their lives, he said: “If they want to work hard, if they want to get a chance, they will get it here.”

On whether he would encourage friends and others seeking to rebuild their lives to move to the country, he said “oh yes, there are opportunities”, describing it as “super clean and super safe” with “good weather”.

“Out of all the countries we have been, we have a better life here”, he added.

The pair said it was “very easy” to obtain a licence to set up their business and arrange visas with immigration, which were granted for two years after an initial temporary period of a few months and have since been renewed for further two years.

Mr Almerdas said he would like to return to Yemen to visit family one day but is enjoying his new life in Rwanda so much that he is considering living there indefinitely.

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