Two of our work-experience students, Amelie Cloughley and Georgia Lumsden, shares their thoughts on the UK’s policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Since the grounding of the first flight to Rwanda on 14th June by the European Court of Human Rights, it has become increasingly clear that a second attempt is on the cards. With this in mind, we look at how and why the scheme came about and why it cannot work.
On 14th April 2022, Boris Johnson announced that any illegal migrants and asylum seekers entering the United Kingdom will be sent to Rwanda, a country located in eastern Africa with a staggering population of 12.5 million people. Here, they will be offered a permanent residency or simply sent back to their country of origin. On 14th of June, the first flight due to take seven or eight people to Rwanda was grounded at the 11th hour. However, it was expected that the Home Office would plan another attempt to carry out its plan in the near future. The Guardian confirmed this on 3rd July, stating that it is likely to take off before a court rule on whether the plan is lawful or not.
The British Home Office reported in a news briefing that the new scheme is fundamentally for those over 18 and not specific to any gender group and Rwanda have stated that it will only accept adults with no criminal record. Migrants who are not eligible for asylum in the United Kingdom will be detained in the country whilst their “suitability” for relocation is assessed by the Home Office. Refugees will aboard a chartered flight to the country of Rwanda where they will have to enter the country’s own asylum system; the migrants will not be permitted to return to the United Kingdom, all in turn marking a “dark day in British history”.
To begin with, the migrants will be placed in temporary accommodation whilst their applications are considered by the Rwandan government – a tedious process which can take up to 3 months. Nevertheless, Rwandan officials have reported that this time for the migrants will not be a “period of detention”, whilst the Prime Minister marked the migration route to Rwanda as “uncapped”.
The official reason given by the government for the decision to send refugees to Rwanda is to discourage refugees from attempting to cross the English Channel and stop people smuggling gangs which Home Secretary Priti Patel describes as the “evil trade in human cargo”. But, and this is a big but, it will not work. Australia has already trialled offshore processing for migrants, which did nothing to prevent arrivals via the sea and the resulting deaths. There is very little chance that the British Home Office is not aware of this. Therefore, this cannot be the real reason for shipping the refugees – that we should be welcoming – off to a country, which has an awful human rights record and a history of genocide.
As it is clear that this policy is not a logical step to prevent the loss of life caused by channel crossings, it must be the product of the views of those residents in the Home Office – namely Patel. She has consistently voted in favour of tightening immigration laws and has previously voted against human rights bills, so it makes sense that she would be in favour of this scheme that cannot have any positive impacts other than appealing to the far-right conservatives that are strongly against immigration to the UK of any kind. Essentially, it is a despicable policy designed to appeal to the same people that voted for Brexit and other far-right conservative policies and to distract from the government’s other recent scandals and failures.
There are many reasons why this plan is an awful idea. To start with, it could never be a good idea to send anyone to a country with the human rights record of Rwanda, including genocide, arbitrary killing by government officials, detention of LGBT+ people and political repression by the current president. And even if this wasn’t the case, many of the refugees expected to be deported, fled from the middle east, thus they have no cultural or familial ties to Africa, or Rwanda. Moreover, the financial and environmental cost of this plan is unjustifiable. £120 million has been promised to Rwanda as part of this plan and the whole scheme is estimated to cost the taxpayer £1.4 billion per year. Furthermore, not only has this plan already been heavily criticised by the European Court on Human Rights, it breaches the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, of which the UK is a signatory. This means that not only is this cruel and unjustifiable, it is also unlawful and must not only be reconsidered but abandoned immediately.