Several prominent public figures, human right groups, activists and even the Church of England have publicly opposed the UK’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Kigali, Rwanda. Some human rights groups have gone as far as taking the matter to court, while influential figures have written to airlines suspected to be handling the flights to urge them to oppose the policy.
The letter had over 90 signatories, including journalists, musicians and lawyers. It was seen by The Independent, a British online newspaper, and then sent to Titan Airways, Privilege Style, Iberojet and other airlines which had operated such deportation flights in the past.
On June 10, Titan Airways took to Twitter to announce that they would not be involved. AirTanker also stated they would not be involved.
“No airline should be offering to aid and abet these racist and senseless plans, which we know will tear siblings apart and put lives in danger. That’s why so many of us are coming together and calling on airlines to refuse complicity in this government’s gross assault on human rights”, said Zoe Gardner, the policy and advocate manager of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
The Church of England senior leaders described the plan as an “immoral policy that shames Britain” in a letter to the Times, UK. They also said it was an outsourcing of the nation’s ethical responsibilities.
However, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the government will remain undeterred amidst the prevalent public criticism. Judges in London have thrown out the pleas from human rights groups and campaigners.
The UK government announced the scheme as a way to tackle the issue of migrants illegally crossing the English Channel in small boats to enter the UK. According to a report by the BBC, over 10,000 migrants have made the dangerous journey across the channel this year alone.
The plan – which has been described as “catastrophic” by the UN’s Refugee Chief – will see the migrants sent to Rwanda to claim asylum there. The UK Home Office will see to the management of the scheme and the chartering of local airlines for the flights. The deal will reportedly cost the UK government about 120 million GBP (148 million USD), to be paid to the Rwandan government.
The first flight, set to take place tonight, will remove 7 or 8 migrants aboard a plane operated by Privilege Style. The initial list had over 100 individuals believed to be mostly from Syria, Sudan, Iraq and Iran, however, the majority have won legal appeals, allowing them to remain in the country. An appeal to ditch the flight altogether was rejected by the Court of Appeal just yesterday.
“The first flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda will take off and people who are not removed on Tuesday will be on subsequent flights,” said Liz Truss, the secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs.
Truss, who shares the Prime Minister’s resolve, said that the government was prepared to face down any future legal oppositions to its plan. She believed that, contrary to popular opinion, their plan was the right thing to do. “It's about making sure that people have a safe future in Rwanda and we're determined to follow through on it”
The deportees will reportedly be given accommodation and support in Rwanda while the Rwandan government considers their application. If their asylum claim is successful, they can stay there for up to 5 years with access to education and support. Otherwise, they will be given the chance to seek other immigration routes, but could also be deported from Rwanda.
Sources: Simple Flying, BBC, Bloomberg.