A controversial migration policy is being implemented in the United Kingdom. Under the new programme, people who come to the UK and seek asylum will be deported to Rwanda. The agreement between the two countries aims to stop migrants from crossing the English Channel.

In April 2022, the UK government announced an agreement with Rwanda under which asylum seekers in the UK would be sent to this African country. The steps were announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arguing the need to stop the flow of illegal migrants crossing the channel.

In exchange for accepting the refugees, the UK would invest £120 million in the development and economic growth of Rwanda. The UK would also pay a separate sum for each transferred person. Refugees who will be sent to Rwanda will be regarded as illegal not for the reason they seek asylum but because of the way they came to the UK. According to Prime Minister Johnson, the agreement with Rwanda does not limit the number of migrants sent.

Only last year, the United Kingdom publicly criticized Rwanda for its human rights failings, including the treatment of detainees, for example in deportation centres or prisons. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2018 report on Rwanda : “People accused of crimes against state security continued to be arrested and held unlawfully in military camps. Many people held in these camps were tortured in an attempt to force them to confess or accuse others. Authorities continued to round up [..] poor people and detained them in so-called transit centers across the country. Conditions in these centers are harsh and inhumane, and beatings are common.” The British Government now wants to send people to a country with these kinds of judicial problems, claiming it is a safe place for refugees.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg stopped the first deportation at the last minute. The plane, which was due to depart from Boscombe Down military base, was probably carrying seven migrants. The intervention of the European Court of Human Rights, which issued an urgent interim measure in the case of one of them, resulted in the others also filing further appeals and the flight was halted. However as Home Secretary Priti Patel said “preparation for the next flight begins now”.

The government’s actions are opposed by many in British communities. In one day, around 160 NGOs and charities launched appeals to the British government to reconsider this idea.

“Far further in inflicting suffering while wasting huge amounts of public money”.-Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International’s UK director for refugee rights, told the BBC.

As the co-leader of Green Party Adrian Ramsay said : “The government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is utterly abhorrent and has been widely condemned, from the UN and human rights lawyers to bishops and campaign groups. As Greens we join the chorus crying, Not in Our Name, and call for a humane policy of official and safe routes for refugees to come to this country and claim asylum. The strong public opposition to this policy and determined efforts of lawyers to fight deportations on a case-by-case basis reveals that at heart the UK is a compassionate country.”

“Greens fully support all efforts to try and prevent the wheels leaving the tarmac tonight – a plane that could end up flying a handful of asylum seekers 4,500 miles away, which makes no economic or environmental sense. In 2021 The government spent £11m on deportation flights. This money should be spent instead on supporting thousands of refugees fleeing war, poverty and oppression. We need to open safe routes instead of deportation routes.” – added Ramsay.

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer has stated that ,,This is absolutely no way to treat people who are seeking refuge from war and persecution”. As she also noted: “The decision to send those seeking sanctuary to Rwanda, a country with an appalling human rights record, seems to be nothing more than an unspeakably cruel attempt at distracting people from the Prime Minister’s law-breaking and lies surrounding partygate.”

Scottish Greens human rights spokesperson Maggie Chapman MSP commented on this issue : “Even by the terrible standards of the institutionally racist Home Office, this would be a disgraceful new low. It is a repressive and authoritarian proposal that rejects the fundamental principle and right of asylum.”

“Time and again, Downing Street has fanned the flames of racism and shown a total disregard for the rights and lives of people fleeing conflict zones and awful circumstances. It has dehumanized and criminalized them, and now it wants to offshore its responsibilities by sending them thousands of miles away to be ‘processed’ by a regime with an appalling human rights record.” – said Chapman.

Marta Banaszek

Marta is studying at the University of Edinburgh. She's interested in green politics, human rights and international politics.She was an intern for Amnesty International where she worked on the Belarus–European Union border crisis.

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