Picture used for illustrative purpose only.
The British government has come under fire over its plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. The trip will be a one-way flight. Home Secretary Priti Patel has been accused of taking part in an “immoral trade of human beings” after it emerged the UK will take in a number of refugees from Rwanda in return for deporting thousands of asylum seekers to the country.
Around 50 of the “most vulnerable refugees” in the African nation are to be resettled in Britain as part of a multimillion-pound deal agreed between the two countries last week, under which thousands of UK asylum seekers are set to be deported to Rwanda to have their claims considered there.
It has also emerged that modern slavery victims will be among those removed from Britain under the deal, despite the fact that the UK government condemned Rwanda for its failure to protect and support survivors of trafficking less than a year ago.
Among those who slammed the move was the leader of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. He said “sub-contracting out our responsibilities” to refugees can’t stand up to God’s scrutiny.
Britain and Rwanda announced on Thursday that they had struck an agreement that will see some people arriving in the UK as stowaways on trucks or in small boats sent 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometres) to the East African country, where their asylum claims will be processed and, if successful, they will stay in Rwanda. More than 28,000 migrants entered the UK across the Channel last year, up from 8,500 in 2020. Dozens have died, including 27 people in November when a single boat capsized.
The British Home Office staff were reportedly shocked and demoralised when the announcement came out.
Refugee and human rights groups called the plan inhumane, unworkable and a waste of taxpayers’ money. The UN refugee agency said it was “contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.” Another senior Anglican cleric, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, called the Rwanda plan “depressing and distressing.” Political opponents accuse Johnson of using the headline-grabbing policy to distract attention from his political troubles. Johnson is resisting calls to resign after being fined by police for attending a party in his office in 2020 that broke coronavirus lockdown rules. Anyone who has arrived in Britain illegally since Jan. 1 could now be relocated to Rwanda, which would disrupt the business model of people-smuggling gangs, the prime minister said.
The Boris government must take a more humane approach to the issue than to make a knee-jerk reaction. It will affect the lives of tens of thousands of asylum seekers.
The plan drew strong criticism from opposition parties, with interior minister Priti Patel’s Labour Party counterpart, Yvette Cooper, saying it was costly, “unworkable and unethical”. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) also voiced opposition.
“People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs.
The government says the move will break people-smuggling networks and stem the flow of migrants across the Channel. That remains to be seen.
The migrants will be housed temporarily in facilities, generally hostels or hotels, in Kigali while their asylum claims are looked into. Once their claims are determined they will be facilitated to integrate into the community.
It is ironical that Johnson should say that Rwanda, where in 1994 Hutu extremists killed more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, was “one of the safest countries in the world.” The basic thing is respect for human beings, and that seems to be lacking here.