Under new government plans, some asylum seekers with hopes of settling in the UK will be flown nearly 5,000 miles away to Rwanda to be processed.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel is in the East-African nation today set to sign the deal for a £120 million trial.
Some reports suggest they will be sent to Rwanda to process their asylum applications, but Mark Easton, the BBC’s Home Affairs Editor, said it would be a “one-way ticket” for people who would be settled in Rwanda indefinitely.
Human rights groups, and refugee organisations have strongly criticised the Government’s Rwanda plan. Labour said the plan was “unworkable, unethical and extortionate”, whilst many view it as a convenient distraction from the current Downing Street partygate controversy. Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster opposed the inhumane idea, saying “It’s just chilling, absolutely chilling, to think that people who are coming here for a whole host of reasons – vulnerable people – are going to be taken all the way to Africa to be processed.”
Boris Johnson, who talks of “taking back control” of immigration and is notorious for his populist immigration tactics, argues that whilst “our compassion may be infinite, our capacity to help people is not” .
Precise details of the plan are yet to be confirmed, but there is no confidence to be found in Johnson’s words, who states he accepts that asylum seekers, “whether 600 or one thousand – are in search of a better life”, whilst securing a deal with a country where 48% of its own asylum seekers were granted asylum in the UK since 2008.
Rwanda country profile:
Rwanda is a small landlocked country in east-central Africa.
The country has long struggled with its legacy of ethnic tension associated with the traditionally unequal relationship between the Tutsi minority and the majority Hutus, that culminated in the 1994 Genocide where 800,000 people were killed.
Advice from the official government travel advice page updated mere days ago, highlights the myriad of issues asylum seekers can expect to face following the already arduous journey many have to experience.
The Foreign Office advice calls attention to heightened tensions along the Rwandan border, where violent clashes and sporadic grenade attacks have occurred over the last five years. They state, alarmingly, that “Terrorist attacks in Rwanda can’t be ruled out”. More specifically, that there is a threat of attack against UK interests.
“Terrorist attacks in Rwanda can’t be ruled out”.Official Government Travel Advice, 12 April 2022
The offshore processing system seems downright irresponsible, considering human rights have historically been dismissed in Rwanda. While not illegal in Rwanda, homosexuality remains frowned upon by many and individuals can experience both discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities. It is hard to feel confident in the ensured safety and wellbeing of asylum seekers when authority figures have such a reputation and no specific anti-discrimination laws protect LGBT individuals.
Health risks also pose a threat in Rwanda including the high risk of malaria in all areas of Rwanda and limited medical facilities available.
The Home Office currently claims that the annual cost of the full scheme would be far higher than the initial £120 million payment. Opponents are arguing it would be significantly higher. Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper says an Australian plan for offshoring refugees, like the one being announced by Boris Johnson, cost £1.7 million per person.
As asylum seekers face another perilous journey, the UK sets to further their suffering. This represents a deal which underestimates cost, reduces efficiency and detrimentally impacts on human lives.
It is hard to imagine a more cruel attack on some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“Sending people to another country – let alone one with such a dismal human rights record – for asylum ‘processing’ is the very height of irresponsibility and shows how far removed from humanity and reality the Government now is on asylum issues.”
This is an entirely misjudged distraction from not only the recent Downing Street party fine controversy, but from the creation of a compassionate, humane and properly functioning asylum system which places vulnerable asylum seekers at the heart of its operation.
This is the essence of what the UK desperately needs.