People seeking asylum in the UK will be flown 4,500 miles to Rwanda to have their claims processed under a new partnership that has been branded “cowardly, barbaric, and inhumane” by refugee charities.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel travelled to Rwanda on Thursday to strike a deal with the country’s minister for foreign affairs.
Under the partnership, asylum seekers who make “dangerous or illegal” journeys in small boats or hidden in lorries will be sent to Rwanda to have their claims processed, Patel said.
Those whose claims are successful will then be supported to “build a new and prosperous” life in the East African country.
The home secretary said this will disrupt the business model of people-smuggling gangs. However, Robina Qureshi, director of refugee charity Positive Action in Housing, said the move will do little to deter asylum seekers from coming to this country and could actually force them back into the hands of people smugglers.
“It will simply persecute and torture those who are already persecuted and tortured and inflict countless misery with next to no public scrutiny,” Qureshi said.
“This won’t deter human smugglers, it will embolden them, more people will drown or suffocate as desperate refugees attempt ever more dangerous journeys to reach here.
“The government should be creating safe humanitarian corridors for refugees, not offloading its responsibilities under the convention to other countries.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Vincent Biruta, shake hands after signing an agreement in Rwanda. Asylum seekers arriving in the UK will be sent to Rwanda, under a controversial deal announced Thursday with which Boris Johnson’s government hopes to deter record-breaking illegal Channel crossings.
It has been reported that asylum seekers will be housed in a hostel in Rwanda’s capital city while they are processed. Patel said the government will divert the money it currently spends on the delivery of asylum operations in the UK to Rwanda to cover the costs. It will also invest £120 million in the country’s economic development and growth.
Campaigners have compared the plan to Australia’s controversial asylum detention programme, which sees those who attempt to travel to Australia by boat and seek asylum detained in offshore detention camps on the island of Nauru.
Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, said there has been rampant abuse, rape, murder, and suicide in the Australian camps and warned that the same could happen in Rwanda.
“This grubby cash-for-people plan would be a cowardly, barbaric and inhumane way to treat people fleeing persecution and war,” Hilton told newsmen.
“Our so-called ‘Global Britain’ is offshoring its responsibilities onto Europe’s former colonies instead of doing our fair share to help some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.
“Australia’s horrific experiment sending refugees thousands of miles away led to rampant abuse in its camps, as well as rape, murder and suicide.
“Ministers seem too keen to ignore the reality that most people who cross the Channel in flimsy boats are refugees from countries where persecution and war are rife who just want to live in safety.
“It’s time the government found its moral compass and started treating refugees with dignity and compassion, creating more routes to safety to claim asylum here and building protection system that’s just and humane.”
In the UK, a new asylum reception centre will be opened in Linton-on-Ouse and a nationwide dispersal system will be introduced in a bid to spread asylum pressures more equally across local authorities, Patel said.
The Royal Navy will also begin patrolling the Channel from Thursday to ensure “no boat makes it to the UK undetected.”
“Today we have signed a world-leading Migration Partnership with Rwanda which can see those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily into the UK relocated to have their claims for asylum considered and, if recognised as refugees, to build their lives there,” Patel said.
“This will help break the people smugglers’ business model and prevent loss of life, while ensuring protection for the genuinely vulnerable.
“At the heart of this approach is fairness. Access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers.”