UK-Rwanda migrant deal: UK announces controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the project “an innovative approach, driven by our common humanitarian impulse and made possible by Brexit-related freedoms”, saying that with the help of the UK, Rwanda will have the capacity to resettle “tens of thousands of people”. in the years to come.”

Speaking at a joint press conference in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on Thursday, British Home Secretary Priti Patel said those relocated to Rwanda “will receive support including up to five years of training, integration, accommodation, health care, so that they can resettle and prosper.”
Patel also called the plan a “new joint partnership for migration and economic development”, saying the UK is “making substantial investments in the economic development of Rwanda”.

Patel insisted the aim of the deal was to improve Britain’s asylum system, which she said has faced “a combination of real humanitarian crises and malicious smugglers who profit by exploiting the system for their own gain”.

When a reporter asked what the criteria for relocation would be, Patel said “we are very clear that anyone who enters the UK illegally will be considered for resettlement and will be brought to Rwanda, I’m not going to disclose specific criteria for a number of reasons.”

Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said Rwanda was happy to work with the UK.

When asked if Rwanda had the infrastructure to accommodate the influx, Biruta said the country had the capacity to receive migrants and would invest in new infrastructure to educate and house migrants with the UK support.

Biruta added that the program would only cater to people seeking asylum in the UK who are in the UK, and that they “would prefer not to receive people from immediate neighbors such as the DRC, the Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania”.

“Exchanges like commodities”

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) expressed “strong opposition and concern” over the plan and urged both countries to reconsider.

“People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred overseas for processing,” UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs said in a statement.

“UNHCR remains strongly opposed to arrangements to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards. Such arrangements only shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Convention,” Triggs said.

UNHCR also said the plan would increase risk and encourage refugees to seek alternative routes, which would put more pressure on frontline states.

“Experience shows that these agreements are usually very expensive. They often violate international law. They do not lead to solutions, but rather to widespread detention or more trafficking,” said UNHCR Senior Legal Officer Larry Bottinick. , on British radio Times Radio. Thusday.

Human Rights Watch strongly criticized the plan, issuing a strong statement.

“Rwanda’s appalling human rights record is well documented,” he said.

“Rwanda has a known history of extrajudicial executions, suspicious deaths in police custody, unlawful or arbitrary detention, torture and abusive prosecution, particularly targeting critics and dissenters. In fact, the UK has directly raises concerns about respect for human rights in Rwanda, and grants asylum to Rwandans who have fled the country, including four in the last year,” he said, adding, “To a time when the British people have opened their hearts and homes to Ukrainians, the government is choosing to act cruelly and tearing up their obligations to others fleeing war and persecution.”

Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee and migrant rights director at Amnesty International in the UK, called the plan “shockingly ill-conceived”.

“Sending people to another country – let alone a country with such a dismal human rights record – for asylum ‘processing’ is the height of irresponsibility and shows how the government is now out of touch with humanity and reality on asylum issues,” Valdez said. -Symonds said in a statement.

Under the new plan, Britain’s Royal Navy will take over operational command of Border Force in the English Channel “with the aim that no boat will come to the UK undetected”, Johnson said.

It also allows UK authorities to prosecute those who arrive illegally, “with life sentences for anyone piloting the boats”, he said.

The English Channel, a narrow waterway between Great Britain and France, is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Refugees and migrants fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in the poorest or war-torn countries risk the dangerous crossing, often in canoes unfit for travel and at the mercy of smugglers, in the hope of asking asylum or economic opportunities in Britain.

Last November, 27 people drowned in bitterly cold waters off the coast of France after a rubber boat carrying migrants bound for Britain sank in one of the deadliest incidents in the Channel in recent years.

CNN’s Kara Fox and Helen Regan contributed to this report.

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