To deal with an ever-worsening channel migrant crisis, the UK government has unveiled its plan of sending arriving migrants 4000 miles across the globe to Rwanda. While there, the UK authorities will process their refugee applications. Human rights groups, as well as opposition politicians, have reacted angrily. Meanwhile, Priti Patel is to sign a five-year agreement with the Rwandan government to set up a trial scheme and “take back control of illegal immigration”. The announcement today has many commentators convinced that the government is using this story as the ‘dead cat’ to distract the public from the fallout of partygate.
Under the plan, any migrant deemed to have arrived by illegal means will be sent on a one-way flight to Rwanda, although it now seems that only men will face the journey. In return, the Rwandan government is receive £120 million. The plan also sets out plans to house migrants in tougher reception centres such as the village of Linton-on-Ouse, in North Yorkshire.
The government has earned nothing but fury from refugee charities who said sending migrants to Rwanda would not address the problems but instead “lead to more human suffering and chaos”.
During his speech this morning, the PM emphasised that the British people have “voted several times to control” UK borders, adding, “our compassion may be infinite, but our capacity to help people is not”. After arriving in Kigali last night, Prit Patel is due to sign what ministers have called a ‘world-first’ deal with the Rwandan government.
UK authorities hope that the scheme will act as a deterrent to migrants who are planning to make the dangerous channel crossing. Officials also anticipate that it will curb the trade of people smugglers.
While some channel migrants arriving on UK shores will see their case assessed and only sent to Rwanda if classified as economic migrants, some will only have their application processed after their arrival in Rwanda. Any migrant who does not qualify as a refugee will be helped to set up a new life in Rwanda, and the UK will foot the bill.
The UK government is pressing ahead with these plans even though less than ten days ago, Lord Harrington, the Refugee Minister said that there was “no possibility” of channel migrants being sent to Rwanda. Opposition politicians as well as many observers believe that the issue is intended to be the ‘dead cat’ to deflect attention from the partygate aftermath. After already receiving a fine for breaking lockdown rules, the Prime Minister is likely to receive three more. Even Tory MP, Tobias Ellwood, said that the contentious immigration plans were a “massive distraction” from Boris Johnson’s lockdown law breaches.
UK government draws fierce backlash from opposition and charities
Sending migrants to Rwanda is, according to the SNP’s Ian Blackford, “evil” with Yvette Cooper branding it “unethical”. Meanwhile, the Refugee Council said the plan was “cruel and nasty”. Speaking to the BBC, Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, said:
“I really worry that this is not the right way to treat asylum seekers. We have an international duty under the Refugee Convention to look after asylum-seekers well. They are big issues. They’ve got to tackled and I don’t think this is the way to do it.”
“I remain to be convinced that it’s going to be a deterrent in any way.”
Amnesty International’s UK refugee and migrants director, Steve Valdez-Symonds, said:
“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.
“The government is already wrecking our asylum system at huge cost to the taxpayer while causing terrible anxiety to the people stuck in the backlogs it has created.”
“But this shockingly ill-conceived idea will go far further in inflicting suffering while wasting huge amounts of public money.”
Priti Patel to face legal action over Rwanda plans
According to the Daily Mail, Priti Patel and other Ministers are preparing to face down any opposition to the bill. Human rights lawyers, as well as opposition politicians, are expected to mount legal challenges to the Nationality and Borders Bill. Once passed through both houses, the Bill allows the Home Secretary to process immigration applications offshore.