On Thursday, 15 April 2022, The British government published its new plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda in an effort to curb illegal entry into the country and cut costs. The proposal has been strongly condemned by opposition politicians, international legal experts, human rights organisations, and religious institutions.
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that the plan was created to address the issue of illegal entry to the country using boats that travel through the English channel and to fix Britain’s broken system. Under the new programme, any individual who has entered the UK illegally since January,2022 and has not sought asylum in a safe third country could be transported to Rwanda and assessed there for settlement in the East African nation.
The timing of the introduction of the Nationality and Borders bill has been seen as rather convenient as Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have both been fined for hosting parties and breaking COVID-19 lockdown protocol. Human Rights groups argue that the bill is meant to weaponize xenophobia and increase the government’s waning support. Matthew Rycroft, a permanent secretary at the UK Home Office, has publicly stated that the bill does not offer value for money and would not deter those seeking asylum.
The plan has been heavily criticized by several different interest groups. The central point of the backlash lies in the fact that the number of overall asylum applications is half of what it was in its peak in 2002. All those who applied for asylum, from war torn countries like Afghanistan and Yemen, have been found to be people genuinely in need of refuge.
The UN refugee agency objected to many of the proposals in the bill as they undermine the country’s commitment to the 1951 UN Convention which promised to protect the people’s right to claim asylum in any country and have their claim dutifully examined. Political experts, human rights groups and opposition lawmakers also agree that the plan will face a variety of legal obstacles.
Opposition politicians in Rwanda have condemned its agreement with the UK. Leaders of the DALFA-Umurinzi and Democratic Green Party of Rwanda have rebuked the UK for trying to use their money and influence to neglect their international obligations to migration and refugee issues. Leaders claim that the intake of asylum seekers will exert more pressure on the land and the people of Rwanda who are already suffering from growing inequality and a lack of resources. Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s long-standing dictator, has remained relatively quiet.
Similar plans have been implemented around the world with resounding failure. Australia’s multi-billion-dollar offshore processing system has demonstrably failed to stop boats, save lives, or break the business model of people smugglers. The programme has been deemed cruel, costly, and ineffective and increased instances of murder, suicide and sexual assault and led to the deterioration of people’s mental and physical health.
Human rights groups believe that the best way to tackle the issue is to reconfigure the asylum-seeking system and provide humanitarian visas just like many European countries did when the war in Ukraine broke out. There is no discernible difference between the conditions that make people flee Syria and those in Ukraine. The only difference is the colour of their skin.