UK government’s bid to offshore refugees to Rwanda slammed by progressives

Last week, the UK signed a deal with Rwanda envisaging the deportation of single adult asylum seekers illegally reaching Britain to the East African country of Rwanda

April 22, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan Foreign Affairs minister Dr. Vincent Biruta (Image via Socialist Worker)

On April 14, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the governments’ plan to deport single adult asylum seekers who have illegally entered Britain to Rwanda, where they would be able to apply for asylum. Opposition political parties, human right groups, charities and working class organizations have criticized the proposal as inhumane and one of the most notorious immigration policy plans of the 21st century.

Various groups including Stand Up To Racism, Refugee Action, Young Communist League (YCL) and others have organized demonstrations throughout the UK. These organizations are taking a stand against the proposal as well as the controversial “Nationality and Borders” bill which is currently undergoing final proceedings in Parliament.

The Johnson-led Tory government and its Home Secretary Priti Patel have already received widespread criticism for insensitive policies towards asylum seekers. In order to restrict the flow of refugees through the English Channel, the UK has tightened coastal patrols. Last year, the number of refugees attempting to reach the UK by making the dangerous trip across the English Channel spiked to 28,300 people, three times the number for 2020. Many have drowned in this perilous pursuit. The Tory government proposed the Nationality and Borders Bill in July 2021 as a solution to the issue of ‘human trafficking’ and migrant deaths. The bill calls for criminalizing “illegal” entry to Britain and “strengthening the powers of Border Force to stop vessels.” The bill, which has been dubbed by its critics as ‘a racist crime against humanity’, is currently in its final stages as it is considering amendments in Parliament. 

A day before the government announced its plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, Priti Patel signed the UK and Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership deal, also known as the Rwanda Asylum Scheme, with Dr. Vincent Biruta; Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Per the deal, Rwanda, which already hosts over 150,000 refugees, would receive £120 million (156.85 million USD) in up-front costs, with asylum-seekers being flown into the country as early as six weeks from mid-April.

Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that “the government’s plan to send refugees fleeing conflict, including those conflicts which the UK has been responsible for, to Rwanda is shameful and beyond cruel. We must build a world of peace and compassion. The plans to ‘offshore’ those seeking safety and security must be resisted.”

The Refugee Action group has stated that “the Rwanda ‘plan’ is a politically cynical, repulsive attack on people who have done nothing wrong and need our help. It reeks of racist colonialism, pushing our border into East Africa. We will stand beside people seeking safety and fight it every inch of the way.”

The anti-racism campaign group Stand Up To Racism has condemned the “disgusting, racist and inhumane move to ‘offshore’ those seeking asylum to Rwanda”  and stated that “this despicable policy is part of a wider intensification of the racist ‘hostile environment’.”

The opponents of the Rwanda Asylum Scheme have raised concerns over the fate of LGBT+ asylum seekers, due to evidence of ill-treatment and abuse faced by this community in Rwanda. They have also accused that, “earlier, the UK itself has raised its concerns about respect for human rights with Rwanda, and granted asylum to Rwandans who have fled the country.” The critics have also equated the deal with Australia’s notorious offshore asylum system which sends asylum seekers to the Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and to the Republic of Nauru.

In its statement on April 17, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) declared solidarity “with all those who oppose the Tory Government’s asylum and refugee plans and above all those who wish to come to Britain and are already here, waiting for their claims to be processed. The proposition to off-shore both the processing of asylum seekers and the legal obligations of this country is dangerous and contrary to international law.”

“If carried out Britain will not be able to say with any honesty that they are a welcoming country for refugees including those who seek to reside in Britain for a range of reasons – linguistic, war, family connections, discrimination, environmental destruction and poverty. Many of these refugees are not illegal but are forced to travel by unsafe routes because they have no other option,” added the CPB.