'Inhumane': UK Plan to Send Refugees to Rwanda Leads to Criticism |  News on refugees

‘Inhumane’: UK Plan to Send Refugees to Rwanda Leads to Criticism | News on refugees

‘Inhumane’: UK Plan to Send Refugees to Rwanda Leads to Criticism | News on refugees

London, United Kingdom – The British government has been accused of trading people as goods after unveiling a controversial plan to send asylum seekers on a one-way ticket 6,000 km (3,700 miles) away in Rwanda.

In a speech on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said anyone who has entered the UK illegally since the beginning of the year “could” be relocated to the East Central African country.

“Our compassion may be infinite, but our ability to help people is not,” he said in Kent, a county in the south-east of the UK and a hot spot for refugees and migrants crossing the Channel and disembarking. on British soil.

Johnson said “thousands of refugees” could be transported over the years as part of the program, which he said would “save countless lives” and crack down on human traffickers.

However, many disagreed. Human rights groups and refugee organizations quickly detonated what they called a “cruel”, “inhuman” and “neocolonial” plan, and questioned both its cost to British taxpayers and its effect. on migration.

“It’s really shocking and inhumane,” said Steve Valdez-Symonds, director of the migrant and refugee rights program at Amnesty International UK.

“The plan will not reduce the number of refugees. It will inflict an enormous amount of cruelty and fuel the creation of routes for the most dangerous refugees, ”Valdez-Symonds told Al Jazeera.

People traded as “commodities”

Under the plan, the UK government would examine asylum seekers upon arrival and provide their personal information to Rwandan officials before they are transported to Kigali. The Rwandan government will take care of the asylum process and, if successful, asylum seekers will settle in the country.

Some details are still a bit obscure, but all refugees arriving in the UK by boat will be sent to Rwanda. If their application is successful, they will not be granted refugee status in the UK but will be granted asylum from Rwanda. Those who are unsuccessful could be repatriated to their country of origin or to another country where they have the right to reside.

Refugees fleeing to the UK due to prosecution, civil wars and torture have the right to claim refugee status under international agreements. However, they can only apply for asylum in the UK on British soil.

Therefore, if the proposal is implemented, those fleeing Iraq, Syria, Eritrea or Sudan will most likely be transported to Rwanda even before applying for asylum, which would ultimately lead to a drastic drop in applications for asylum. asylum.

The proposal will come into force after the approval of a law currently under consideration by Parliament that could criminalize refugees entering the country without a valid visa. Legislation should pass as Johnson’s party enjoys a parliamentary majority.

But Johnson expects his plan to be challenged in court as he said there will be a “formidable army of politically motivated lawyers who have pledged to thwart the removals for years” during his speech.

‘Slam the door’

Globally, only less than 1% of refugees worldwide have access to safe and direct resettlement through the United Nations.

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, an NGO that provides support to migrants in detention, said others are forced to take their own future into their own hands and cross borders to seek asylum directly.

“When governments try to discourage asylum seekers, those people do not disappear into thin air. They are forced to take longer and more dangerous journeys to try to rebuild their lives, ”Sankey told Al Jazeera.

“By slamming the door on asylum seekers, this government is shirking their responsibilities and adding to the wider crisis,” he said.

The UN refugee agency has also expressed opposition.

“People fleeing wars, conflicts and persecutions deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded as cargo and taken overseas for processing, ”said Gillian Triggs, Assistant to the UNHCR High Commissioner for Protection.

Refugee Action CEO Tim Naor Hilton accused the government of “shifting its responsibilities to former European colonies instead of doing our fair share to help some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.”

Others, meanwhile, have criticized Rwanda’s human rights situation.

“There is nothing ‘safe’ or ‘compassionate’ about Boris Johnson’s neocolonial plan to send refugees to camps off the coast of Rwanda, where the government tortures, intimidates and assassinates their political opponents and persecutes marginalized people,” he said. said Sankey.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta She said Rwanda will offer refugees “a dignified life with shelter, with the capabilities to be able to integrate socially and economically into our society, or to have those skills to be able to integrate into their country of origin when they decide to return to their countries”.

Record high crossings

The language Johnson used in his speech was familiar enough. Phrases such as “take back control of British borders” or “single men” from the Middle East and African countries arriving in the UK were key parts of his appeal to pro-Brexit voters during the 2016 campaign, which he co -guided.

However, despite Johnson’s promise to curb crossings of the English Channel, the number of people arriving on British shores has increased dramatically in recent years.

More than an estimated 28,000 migrants and refugees crossed in small boats from Europe to the UK last year, a more than threefold increase on the 2020 figure.

In November last year, 27 people died trying to reach the UK when their boat sank in the worst disaster on the English Channel.

According to a recent poll by Ipsos Mori, 60 per cent of British public opinion is dissatisfied with the government’s migration policy.

Valdez-Symonds said Johnson was “more interested in headlines and political advantage than the impact of the refugee plan.”

The deal, signed Thursday by Interior Minister Priti Patel during a visit to Kigali, came as more Ukrainian refugees continue to arrive in the UK through various visa programs that the government launched in the wake of the Russian invasion in February.

So far, more than 55,000 visas have been issued to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine and 16,400 of them arrived in the UK on Monday.

Zoe Gardner, policy and advocacy manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, highlighted the contrast between the proposed policy and the attitude towards Ukrainian refugees.

“Most of us want people fleeing danger to be treated with dignity and respect – the British public’s response to Ukraine made that clear,” Gardner told Al Jazeera.

“But instead of welcoming those in need of protection,” he said, the deal will be “deporting blacks and browns who have fled from desperate circumstances thousands of miles away.”

Set a trend

The UK is not the only country that has tried to outsource its asylum applications. Australia, which British officials often cite as the inspiration for their plan, kept asylum seekers arriving by boat at detention centers off the Pacific Islands.

The policy has been heavily criticized for causing “immeasurable suffering” to dozens of asylum seekers who have suffered severe abuse and inhumane treatment under substandard conditions and end up committing suicide.

Israel also entered into secret agreements in 2013 with Rwanda and Uganda to relocate asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea. The deal fell through when refugees – whose documents were taken away and not offered protection – fled Rwanda on a perilous journey to Europe, according to a study from the University of Oxford in 2018.

The Danish parliament also passed a law in June last year that would allow it to relocate asylum seekers to third countries outside of Europe, despite widespread criticism from the European Union, the United Nations and groups for human rights.

Johnson said the deal would become “a new international standard” in migration management.

But Amnesty’s Valdez-Symonds warned: “The plan could create a dangerous trend for other Western countries to adopt their offshore asylum programs.”

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